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Glenn Gould at the piano with his dog, Nicka, and budgie, Mozart.

Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 25 September 1932, Glenn Gould was one of the great musicians of the twentieth century. While he was acclaimed initially as a pianist of prodigioius talent, Gould had a remarkable career which included recording, writing, and producing radio documentaries, composing, and writing scholarly and critical work. A performer of multiple talents, Glenn Gould on occasion turned to the organ and harpsichord, and in his last year began to work as a recording conductor. He had written the music for three films and had hoped to direct films and write fiction.

Glenn Gould and Leonard Bernstein.

Although Glenn Gould had become a legend as a concert pianist before he was thirty, he chose to redirect his energies towards innovative ways to communicate music through the mass media. When he stopped giving concerts in 1964, at the age of 32, his friends and closest colleagues feared he would lose his eminence in the international music world. With extraordinary foresight, however, he consolidated his career as a recording artist with CBS Records. He influenced a new generation of performers and listeners through his illuminating interpretations of the music of a variety of composers, and in particular, of Bach. Gould's probing and sometimes controversial explorations of his extensive musical repertoire resulted in intensely personal re-creations of classical works, which became milestones in the evolution of musical interpretation and performance.

Glenn Gould grave marker, Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto, Canada.

Glenn Gould's passion for using media technologies to communicate his ideas began at the outset of his long association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. In addition to his numerous performances on radio, Gould broke new artistic ground with his documentaries on radio and his television essays and performances. Now republished, his writings reveal a profound musical insight and are stimulating interests among new audiences.

Glenn Gould's untimely death on 4 October 1982, just several days after his fiftieth birthday, was mourned by music lovers everywhere. Through his recordings and other contributions to the mass media, Glenn Gould has left a rich legacy of musical ideas and performances which continue to challenge and inspire new generations throughout the world.


Glenn Gould: An Extended Biography
By Kevin Bazzana

Glenn Gould
The Fast Facts

Birth: September 25, 1932, Toronto, Canada.

Professional Debuts: Recital and Concerto Debuts, 1947; American debut, January 1955; U.S.S.R., Western Europe, Israel, and London tours, 1957-1959.

First Recording: Bach's Goldberg Variations, 1956.

Career Accomplishments: Concert Pianist, 1947-1964; String Quartet, Opus 1, composition, 1953-1955; Director of Music, Stratford Festival, 1961-1964; seven radio documentaries, 1966-1981; feature film musical arrangement, 1972, 1982.

Death: October 4, 1982, buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Toronto.

Glenn Herbert Gould was born on September 25, 1932, in Toronto, which would be his home for the rest of his life. (The family's original surname, Gold, was changed around 1939.) Gould's prodigious musical gifts, including perfect pitch, were apparent by age 3, and as a child he learned the rudiments of music and the piano from his mother. He studied theory (1940-7), organ (1942-9), and piano (1943-52, with Alberto Guerrero) at the Toronto (later Royal) Conservatory of Music, earning his Associate diploma, with highest honors, at age 12. From age 5, Gould occasionally played in public, on piano and organ, and he competed in a few music festivals, but his parents never subjected him to the life of a star prodigy. He made his professional recital and concerto debuts in 1947, and by the early 1950s was known across Canada through concert appearances, CBC radio and television broadcasts, and recordings. From 1953, he performed often at the annual Stratford Festival, even serving from 1961 to 1964 as one of its directors of music.

In January 1955, Gould made his American debut, with recitals in Washington, D.C., and New York. His unorthodox programme (Sweelinck, Gibbons, Bach, late Beethoven, Berg, and Webern), distinctive piano style, idiosyncratic interpretations, and unusual platform mannerisms marked him as an iconoclast. The day after his New York debut, he signed a contract with Columbia Records, for whom he recorded exclusively thereafter. His first recording, of Bach's Goldberg Variations, was released in 1956 to critical and popular acclaim, and brought him international attention. For the next nine years, he lived the life of a touring virtuoso. He gave concerts throughout North America, and between 1957 and 1959 made three overseas tours, playing in the U.S.S.R., Western Europe, Israel, and London, earning praise and arousing controversy wherever he went. His eccentric character, both on stage and off, provoked nearly as much comment as his playing, and he was the subject of colorful publicity from the beginning of his career. In 1964, Gould retired permanently from public performance, citing temperamental, moral, and musical objections to the concert medium. He went on to become an outspoken champion of the electronic media -- of studio recording, broadcasting, and film-making. He made scores of recordings, acquiring theoretical and practical insights into the recording medium unusual for a classical performer. He made countless radio and TV programs for the CBC, conventional recitals as well as talk-and-play shows on particular themes. In the 1960s and 70s, he made seven innovative "contrapuntal radio documentaries" -- evocative tapestries of sound that blended elements of documentary, drama, and musical composition. Four were portraits of musicians he admired, the others a fascinating "Solitude Trilogy" about people living in isolation: The Idea of North (1967); The Latecomers (1969), about Newfoundland; and The Quiet in the Land (1977), about Mennonites in Manitoba. Gould also made programs for the BBC (Conversations with Glenn Gould, 1966), and for French and German television (Chemins de la musique, 1974; Glenn Gould Plays Bach, 1979-81).

Gould was prolific as a writer, especially after 1964; he explored many musical and non-musical topics in record-liner notes, periodical articles and reviews, scripts for broadcasts and films, interviews, and, in the early 1960s, a few public lectures. He composed from childhood, and was particularly active in his teens, when he wrote piano pieces, a bassoon sonata, and many unfinished works. His only major composition is the long, one-movement String Quartet, Opus 1, composed 1953-1955 and later published and recorded. From the beginning of his concert career, he spoke often of quitting performing in order to devote himself to composition, but after the String Quartet he completed few works, mostly humorous occasional pieces. He arranged music for two feature films: Slaughterhouse-Five (1972) and The Wars (1982).

Gould was one of the most unconventional classical musicians of modern times. His repertoire was highly selective: he played few of the early-Romantic and impressionistic works at the core of the piano repertoire, preferring Baroque, Classical, late-Romantic, and 20th-century music, mostly by Austro-German composers; he also played Elizabethan music, transcriptions, and a few works by Canadians. He played Bach and Schönberg, the composers most central to his repertoire and aesthetic, with particular authority. He upset many conventions of piano-playing, as with his fondness for detached articulation, but he was widely admired for his virtuosity, probing intellect, command of musical architecture, rhythmic dynamism, precise fingerwork, and clarity of counterpoint. Believing that the performer's role was properly creative, Gould offered original, deeply personal, sometimes shocking interpretations (extreme tempos, odd dynamics and phrasing) that have always been controversial, particularly in well-known works by Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.

By age fifty, Gould claimed to have largely exhausted the piano literature that interested him, and turned to a new interest: conducting. In 1982, he made a chamber-orchestra recording -- as unusual as any of his piano recordings -- of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll, and he had ambitious plans for at least several years' worth of conducting projects, some of them to be associated with films. After that, he planned to give up performance entirely and devote himself to writing and composing, perhaps retiring to the countryside. But on September 27, 1982, shortly after the release of a new recording of the Goldberg Variations, Gould suffered a massive stroke. He died, in Toronto, on October 4.

Since his death, Gould's international fame has grown steadily, and his work has been widely disseminated. His writings, interviews, and letters have been collected and translated. In 1992, Sony Classical began releasing his live and studio recordings, films, and broadcasts in two comprehensive series: the Glenn Gould Edition, on CD (eight volumes with more than 70 CDs); and the Glenn Gould Collection, on videotape and laserdisc (sixteen hour-long volumes). Also in 1992, CBC Records began releasing some of his radio documentaries and early broadcast performances (to date, eleven CDs). In 1995, the German music publisher Schott undertook an edition of his compositions.

Gould has posthumously been the subject of a large and diverse collection of literature, not only in English: many publications in French, German, Italian, Japanese, and other languages demonstrate a passionate international following. Countless radio and TV broadcasts have been devoted to him, and he has inspired novels, plays, musical compositions and arrangements, poems, visual art, and the Canadian feature film Thirty-two Short Films About Glenn Gould (1993). Whole conferences have been devoted to Gould -- two in Toronto (1992 and 1999), others in Montreal (1987), Amsterdam (1988), and Groningen, The Netherlands (1992) -- and there have been many smaller exhibitions, film festivals, and other Gould events around the world. An international Glenn Gould Society was based in Groningen from 1982 to 1992, and published a semi-annual Bulletin. The Glenn Gould Foundation, created in Toronto in 1983, has since 1987 awarded a triennial Glenn Gould Prize in music and communications; in 1995 it formed an international Friends of Glenn Gould society, with its own semi-annual journal, GlennGould. Gould was much honoured during his lifetime -- for example, he received the Harriet Cohen Bach Medal (1959), a doctorate from the University of Toronto (1964), the Canada Council's Molson Prize (1968), the Canadian Conference of the Arts' Diplome d'honneur (1976), and the Canadian Music Council Award (1981) -- and has posthumously received awards and tributes of many kinds, from cultural institutions and from every level of government. His papers and personal effects are housed at the National Library of Canada, in Ottawa, and in the Canadian Museum of Civilization, in Hull.

In the years since his death, Gould has proven to be one of Canada's most important and influential cultural figures, and one of the world's most popular, admired, and intensely studied classical musicians.



Contents copyright ©2001, The Glenn Gould Foundation
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The Prospects of Recording

by: Glenn Gould


Here appears the article as it was published in High Fidelity Magazine, vol. 16, nr. 4, April 1966, pp. 46-63, complete with the original quotes for each section in green text (by permission of Hachette Filipacchi Magzines, Inc.)

Part A

      In the United States, Glenn Gould is known as a brilliant and provocative pianist and as an occasional author of brilliant and provocative musical commentary. In his native Canada he is known as well as a radio and television "personality", a magnetic educator of Bernsteinian skill and stature. One of his most talked-of shows for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was last year's wide-ranging report on "The Prospects of Recording," a 90-minute program which examined in some detail the profound effect of electronic technology on the whole panorama of music, viewed from the standpoint of the performer, the composer, and the listener. As soon as we heard it, we knew that this radio script contained the basis of a fascinating and important article, and we asked, Mr. Gould to prepare it for this anniversary issue of HIGH FIDELITY. At is turns out, the adaptation delves into the subject far more thoroughly than the broadcast. "The Prospects of Recording" is a lengthy and occasionally difficult essay, but we consider it well worth our space and your attention.

      Alongside the Gould article are marginal comments on its major themes from various key figures in the worlds of music, recordings, and mass communications: Milton Babbitt, America's leading composer of electronic music and a professor at Princeton University; Schuyler G. Chapin, vice-president in charge of programming at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts; Aaron Copland, a major force in the development of American music; John Culshaw, manager of classical recordings for Decca/London; B. H. Haggin, doyen of American record critics and author of the first over-all guide to music on records; Lord Harewood, former artistic director of the Edinburgh Festival and present artistic advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra; Goddard Lieberson, president of Columbia Records Inc.; Enoch Light, veteran bandleader and founder of Command Records; John McClure, director of Masterworks, Columbia Records; Marshall McLuhan, sociologist of mass communications and director of the Institute of Culture and Technology at the University of Toronto; George R. Marek, vice-president and general manager of RCA Victor Record Division; Richard Mohr, musical director of Red Seal Recordings, RCA Victor; Denis Stevens, musicologist-conductor-critic specializing in early music; Leopold Stokowski, conductor and long-time recordist. Their comments are excerpted from taped interviews.

      IN AN UNGUARDED MOMENT some months ago, I predicted that the public concert as we know it today would no longer exist a century hence, that its functions would have been entirely taken over by electronic media. It had not occurred to me that this statement represented a particularly radical pronouncement. Indeed, I regarded it almost as self-evident truth and, in any case, as defining only one of the peripheral effects occasioned by developments in the electronic age. But never has a statement of mine been so widely quoted -- or so hotly disputed.

      The furor it occasioned is, I think, indicative of an endearing, if sometimes frustrating, human characteristics reluctance to accept the consequences of a new technology. I have no idea whether this trait is, on balance, an advantage or a liability, incurable or correctable. Perhaps the escalation of invention must always be disciplined by some sort of emotional short-selling. Perhaps skepticism is the necessary obverse of progress. Perhaps, for that reason, the idea of progress is, as at no time in the past, today in question.

      Certainly, this emotional short-selling has its good side. The afterthought of Alamogordo -- the willingness to kill off a monster of their own creation -- does more credit to the pioneers of the atomic age than all the blessings this generation can expect that breakthrough to give birth to. And, if protest against the ramifications of man's ingenuity is inevitable, and even essential to the function of his genius, then perhaps there really is no bad side -- just amusement at and, ultimately, acceptance of that indecisiveness which proclaims the frailty of man's continuing humanity.

      In any event, I can think of few areas of contemporary endeavor that better display the confusion with which technological man evaluates the implications of his own achievements than the great debate about music and its recorded future. As is true for most of those areas in which the effect of a new technology has yet to be evaluated, an examination of the influence of recording must pertain not only to speculations about the future but to an accommodation of the past as well. Recordings deal with concepts through which the past is reëvaluated, and they concern notions about the future which will ultimately question even the validity of evaluation.

     The preservative aspects of recording are, of course, by no means exclusively in the service of music. "The first thing we require of a machine is to have a memory," said a somnolently pontifical character in Jean Luc Godard's recent film A Married Woman. In the electronic age a caretaking comprehension of those encompassing chronicles of universal knowledge which were tended by the medieval scholastics -- an encumbrance as well as an impossibility since the early Middle Ages -- can be consigned to computer-repositories that file away the memories of mankind and leave us free to be inventive in spite of them. But in limiting our investigation to the effect of recordings upon music, we isolate an art inhibited by the hierarchical specialization of its immediate past, an art which has no clear recollection of its origins, and therefore an art much in need of both the preservative and translative aspects of recording. As a recent brief prepared by the University of Toronto's Department of Musicology proposing a computer-controlled phonographic information system succinctly noted, "Whether we recognize it or not, the long-playing record has come to embody the very reality of music."

      As concerns its relations to the immediate past, the recording debate centers upon whether or not electronic media can present music in so viable a way as to threaten the survival of the public concert. Notwithstanding the imposing array of statistics which testify to the contrary ("Ladies' Lyric League Boasts Box Office Boost 3rd Successive Year"), I herewith reaffirm my prediction that the habit of concert-going and concert-giving, both as a social institution and as chief symbol of musical mercantilism, will be as dormant in the twenty-first century as, with luck, will Tristan da Cunha's Volcano; and that, because of its extinction, music will be able to provide a more cogent experience than is now possible. The generation currently being subjected to the humiliation of public school solfège will be the last to attain their majority persuaded that the concert is the axis upon which the world of music revolves.

      It is not. And considering for what a brief span the public concert has seemed predominant, the wonder is that pundits allowed it ever would be. To its perpetuation, however, a substantial managerial investment is currently committed ("For Rent: Complex of Six caustically Charming Auditoria. Apply, J. Rockefeller."), and we must realize that to reckon with its obsolescence is to defy the very body of the musical establishment. It cannot be overemphasized, however, that the fate of the public event is incidental to the future of music -- a future deserving of far greater concern than is the fiscal stability of the concert hall. The influence of recordings upon that future will affect not only the performer and concert impresario but composer and technical engineer, critic and historian, as well. Most important, it will affect the listener to whom all of this activity is ultimately directed. It is to an examination of some of these changes that this present anniversary issue of HIGH FIDELITY is devoted.

The concert is an antique form as it now stands. Most towns cannot afford the best concert artists and I don't see the advantage of seeing a second-rate artist over hearing a superb one. -- LIEBERSON

With all the progress that we have made in the reproduction of sound, I have yet to hear on record what I hear in the concert hall or what I hear in my mind when I read a score. -- MAREK

In a recording an artist can be encouraged to give a more immediately intense performance than he could under concert or theatre conditions. -- CULSHAW

For me, the most important thing is the element of chance that is built into a live performance. The very great drawback of recorded sound is the fact that it is always the same. No matter how wonderful a recording is, I know that I couldn't live with it -- even of my own music -- with the same nuances forever. -- COPLAND

I can't believe that people really prefer to go to the concert hall under intellectually trying, socially trying, physically trying conditions, unable to repeat something they have missed, when they can sit home under the most comfortable and stimulating circumstances and hear it as they want to hear it. I can't imagine what would happen to literature today if one were obliged to congregate in an unpleasant hall and read novels projected on a screen. -- BABBITT

Many people have come to the concert hall expecting to hear the glowing, glossy, beautiful performances they have heard on records only to be shocked by the natural acoustics. The Dvorák Cello Concerto on a recording can easily have the soloist as the absolute protagonist, with great presence, whereas he is often drowned out by the orchestra in the concert hall. But I also think that many more will feel that the adventure, the accidental excitement of a live performance is much more stimulating and satisfying than just listening constantly to a record. -- CHAPIN

I think that records have already replaced concerts for a great many people and have affected a great number of others in their concert and operagoing. If you push this logically, to the complete replacement of concerts by recordings, you would have complete disaster. For then you would have no artists coming up, trying out in halls, making careers for themselves. It would be disastrous not only for live music but for the gramophone. -- HAREWOOD

Change of Acoustic

      IF WE WERE TO TAKE an inventory of those musical predilections most characteristic of our generation, we would discover that almost every item on such a list could be attributed directly to the influence the recording. First of all, today's listeners have come to associate musical performance with sounds possessed of characteristics which generations ago were neither available to the profession nor wanted by the public -- characteristics such as analytic clarity, immediacy, and indeed almost tactile proximity. Within the last few decades the performance of music has ceased to be an occasion, requiring an excuse and tuxedo, and accorded, when encountered, an almost religious devotion; music has become a pervasive influence in our lives, and as our dependence upon it has increased, our reverence for it has, in a certain sense, declined. Two generations ago, concert-goers preferred that their occasional experience of music be fitted with an acoustic splendor, cavernously reverberant if possible, and pioneer recording ventures attempted to simulate the cathedral-like sound which the architects of that day tried to capture for the concert hall -- the cathedral of the symphony. The more intimate terms of our experience with recordings have since suggested to us an acoustic with a direct and impartial presence, one with which we can live in our homes on rather casual terms.

      Apparently, we are also expected to live with it in the concert hall. Some of the much heralded links in that prodigious chain of postwar auditoria catastrophes (Philharmonic Hall of Lincoln Center, at Festival Hall, etc.) have simply appropriated characteristics of the recording studio intended to enhance microphone pickup, the special virtue of which becomes a detriment in the concert hall. Proof of this is that when the audience is sent home and the microphones moved in close and tight around the band, Philharmonic Hall -- like many of these acoustical puzzles -- can accommodate surprisingly successful recording sessions.

      Just how great a change has come about can be seen in a comparison between recordings made in North America and Western Europe and those originating in Central and Eastern Europe, where -- for reasons both economic and geographic -- the traditions of public concertgoing retain a social cachet which for North America's split-level suburbia has long since been transferred to twelve-tone doorbells, nursery intercom, and steam room stereo. One need only compare a typical Continental reverberation such as that present in the Konwitschny recordings from Leipzig or (though it somewhat contradicts the geographical assumptions of my argument) in Van Beinum's from the Concertgebouw with the Studio 8H sound of Toscanini's discs of the late Thirties and Forties or with the Severance Hall balances for George Szell's recent Epic recordings to appreciate the modifications that the North American attitude to recording can impose on even the most resolute martinet.

      A more precise comparison can be found between the discs made by Herbert von Karajan with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London for EMI-Angel and the same maestro's recordings for DGG in Berlin. Any number of the latter (I am thinking now of such releases as the 1959 performance of Ein Heldenleben with a distant brass and all but inaudible timpani) suggest a production crew determined to provide for the listener the evocation of a concert experience. The EMI recordings, on the other hand, provide Karajan with an acoustic which, while hardly chamberlike, at least subscribes to that philosophy of recording which admits the futility of emulating concert hall sonorities by a deliberate limitation of studio techniques.

      Further evidence of this curious anachronism can be found in some of the recitals recorded by Svjatoslav Richter in Eastern Europe, of which the magnificent performance of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, taped in Sofia, Bulgaria, is a good example. Here is a great artist with an incomparable interpretation transcribed by technicians who are determined that their microphones will in no way amplify, dissect, or intrude upon the occasion being preserved. Richter's superbly lucid playing is sabotaged by some obsequious miking which permits us, at best, a top-of-the-Gods half-earful. Unlike their colleagues in North America, who are aware of serving a public which to a considerable extent has discovered music through records and who evaluate their own presence in the booth as crucial to the success of the end product, the production crew in Sofia, off-stage in the wings of some palace of municipal amusement, made no such claims for the autonomy of their craft. They sought only to pursue it as an inconspicuous complement of Richter's performance.

      The North American and Western European sound strives for an analytic detail which eludes the Central European displacement. By virtue of this Westernized sound, recording has developed its own conventions, which do not always conform to those traditions that derive from the acoustical limitations of the concert hall. We have, for instance, come to expect a Brünnhilde, blessed with amplification as well as amplitude, who can surmount without struggle the velvet diapason of the Wagnerian orchestra, to insist that a searching spotlight trace the filigreed path of a solo cello in concerto playing -- demands which contravene the acoustical possibilities of the concert hall or opera house. For the analytical capacity of the microphones has exploited psychological circumstances implicit in the concerto dialogue, if not within the ability of the solo instrument itself, and the Ring cycle as produced by a master like John Culshaw for Decca/ London attains a more effective unity between intensity of action and displacement of sound than could be afforded by the best of all seasons at Bayreuth.










Certainly I conduct a performance for a recording differently than I would for a live performance. In a recording what we are really striving for is to express the physical and emotional nature of the music in terms that will both be eloquent and convey the composer's ideas in the average living room. -- STOKOWSKI






With today's multiple microphoning you really have to be careful not to achieve too surgical a line. I think it important to have touch-up microphones in front of the winds, or the basses, but most composers have written for instrumental sections rather than for individual instruments in the orchestra, and we must make sure that these sections are in the proper balance with each other. The microphone must not become too analytical. -- LIGHT






The ideal for a phonograph record is the concert hall illusion, or rather the illusion of the concert hall illusion, because you can't transfer the concert hall into the dimensions of a living room. What you can do is record a work so that you think you are in a concert hall when you listen to it at home. -- MOHR






Personally, I don't like the present fashion of close-up miking, not even for the piano. I prefer perspective. I don't believe the engineer should intrude between the composer, or performer, and the listener and suddenly make you hear a flute or trumpet. I think the next step will be a regression back to the old days, with fewer microphones placed further away both to give perspective and to let the ears listen on their own. If a composer wants to write the other way, he should frankly call his piece a String Quartet for Four Instruments and Four Microphones; that is quite a different sound than for instruments alone. -- LIEBERSON







An Untapped Repertoire

     ANOTHER ITEM to be added to our catalogue of contemporary enthusiasms is the astonishing revival in recent years of music from preclassical times. Since the recording techniques of North America and Western Europe are designed for an audience which does most of its listening at home, it is not surprising that the creation of a recording archive has emphasized those areas which historically relate to a hausmuzik tradition and has been responsible for the triumphant restoration of baroque forms in the years since World War II. This repertoire -- with its contrapuntal extravaganzas, its antiphonal balances, its espousal of instruments that chiff and wheeze and speak directly to a microphone -- was made for stereo. That prodigious catalogue of cantatas and concerti grossi, fugues and partitas has endowed the neobaroque enthusiasm of our day with a hard core of musical experience. A certain amount of this music has then found its way back into the concert hall and re-engaged the attention of the public audience -- sometimes indeed through considerable musicological enterprise. New York's Jay Hoffman, perhaps the last concert impresario truly deserving of that once proud title, offered his audience on consecutive evenings during Christmas week, 1964, comparative versions of Messiah according to G. F. Handel and other editors. But this scholarly exactitude has come about by virtue of a recorded library which enables such works to be studied in great number, in great privacy, and in an acoustic that fits them to the proverbial T.

      From a musicological point of view the effort of the recording industry on behalf of Renaissance and pre-Renaissance music is of even greater value. For the first time, the musicologist, rather than the performer, has become the key figure in the realization of this untapped repertoire; and in place of sporadic and often as not historically inaccurate concert performances of a Palestrina Mass or a Josquin chanson, or whichever isolated items were heretofore considered approachable and not too offensively pretonal, the record archivists have documented a new perspective for the history of music.

      The performer is inevitably challenged by the stimulus of this unexplored repertoire. He is also encouraged by the nature of studio techniques to appropriate characteristics that have tended for a century or two to be outside his private preserve. His contact with the repertoire he records is often the result of an intense analysis from which he prepares an interpretation of the composition. Conceivably, for the rest of his life he will never again take up or come in contact with that particular work. In the course of a lifetime spent in the recording studio he will necessarily encounter a wider range of repertoire than could possibly be his lot in the concert hall. The current archival approach of many recording companies demands a complete survey of the works of a given composer, and performers are expected to undertake productions of enormous scope which they would be inclined to avoid in the concert hall, and in many cases to investigate repertoire economically or acoustically unsuitable for public audition the complete piano works of Mozart which Walter Gieseking undertook for Angel, for instance.

      But most important, this archival responsibility enables the performer to establish a contact with a work which is very much like that of the composer's own relation to it. It permits him to encounter a particular piece of music and to analyze and dissect it in a most thorough way, to make it a vital part of his life for a relatively brief period, and then to pass on to some other challenge and to the satisfaction of some other curiosity. Such a work will no longer confront him with a daily challenge. His analysis of the composition will not become distorted by overexposure, and his performance top-heavy with interpretative "niceties" intended to woo the upper balcony, as is almost inevitably the case with the overplayed piece of concert repertoire.

      It may be that these archival pursuits, especially where the cultivation of earlier literature is involved, recommend themselves both to the performer and his audience as a means of avoiding some of the problems inherent in the music of our own time. One is sometimes inclined to suspect that such phenomena as the baroque revival provide refuge for those who find themselves displaced persons in the frantically metamorphosing world of modern music. Certainly, the performance traditions indigenous to those areas of repertoire revived by the microphone have had an enormous influence upon the way in which certain kinds of contemporary repertoire are performed, and have, indeed, bred a generation of performers whose interpretative inclinations respond to the microphone's special demands.

      The recordings of Robert Craft, those prodigious undertakings on behalf of the Viennese trinity Schönberg, Berg, and Webern -- not to mention Don Carlo Gesualdo -- tell us a good deal about the way in which performances prepared with the microphone in mind can be influenced by technological considerations. For Craft, the stop watch and the tape splice are tools of his trade as well as objects of that inspiration for which an earlier generation of stick-wielders found an outlet in the opera cape and temper tantrums. A comparison between Craft's readings of the large-scale orchestral studies of Schönberg, especially the early post-romantic essays such as Verklärte Nacht or Pelléas und Melisande, with the interpretations of more venerable maestros -- Winfried Zillig's glowingly romantic Pelléas of 1949, for instance is instructive.

      Craft applies a sculptor's chisel to these vast orchestral complexes of the youthful Schönberg and gives them a determined series of plateaus on which to operate -- a very baroque thing to do. He seems to feel that his audience -- sitting at home, close up to the speaker -- is prepared to allow him to dissect this music and to present it to them from a strongly biased conceptual viewpoint, which the private and concentrated circumstances of their listening make feasible. Craft's interpretation, then, is all power steering and air brakes. By comparison, in Zillig's reading of Pelléas (on a now withdrawn Capitol-Telefunken disc) the leisurely application of rubatos, the sensual haze with which he gilds the performance as though concerned that clarity could be an enemy of mystery, point clearly to the fact that his interpretation derived from a concert experience where such performance characteristics were intuitive compensations for an acoustic dilemma.

      The example is productive of a larger issue with which the techniques of the recording studio confront us, and I have deliberately chosen to illustrate it with an example from that area of twentieth-century repertoire least indigenous to the medium. Whether Craft's analytic dissection of such repertoire is appropriate, whether there remain positive virtues to the presentation of late-romantic fare in the concert hall, is not really the point. We must be prepared to accept the fact that, for better or worse, recording will forever alter our notions about what is appropriate to the performance of music.

Now that people have such a vast command of the musical literature on records, they can compare more and see where the structural, and even the tonal, similarities lie between the old and the new. We hear a lot of talk about so-called "totally organized music", nowadays. But this is reflected in earlier disciplines to some extent, as in the totally isorhythmic motet, where the exact rhythms of a piece of music were specified. Similarly, one could say that early Stockhausen is closer to Dunstable than to anyone else in between. But to appreciate this, one needs good recordings of Dunstable and these are hard to find. -- STEVENS











Archive recordings must have a future one way or another. But a commercial record company can go on producing these albums for only so long and I think that what must develop in the recording field is what has developed in the book business, where it has taken the form of the university press I've already approached one of the large foundations to ask them to interest themselves in this problem. Some kind of central warehousing of all esoteric recordings would be an appropriate function for a foundation. -- LIEBERSON











In the presentation of early music the performance very often precedes knowledge of the score. Indeed there may be only a single manuscript somewhere. It would be difficult to make this manuscript available to the general public, but a recording can at least show what it sounded like. As a musicologist, I find recordings constantly a challenge, because they help me to hear scores which have not been performed since the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries. But they also pose problems: record jackets very rarely give enough information. -- STEVENS

The Splendid Splice

      OF ALL THE TECHNIQUES peculiar to the studio recording, none has been the subject of such controversy as the tape splice. With due regard to the not so unusual phenomenon of a recording comprised of single-take sonata or symphony movements, the great majority of present-day recordings consist of a collection of tape segments varying in duration upwards from one twentieth of a second. Superficially, the purpose of the splice is to rectify performance mishaps. Through its use, the wayward phrase, the insecure quaver can, except when prohibited by "overhang" or similar circumstances of acoustical imbalance, be remedied by minute retakes of the offending moment, or of a splice segment of which it forms a part. The anti-record lobby proclaims splicing a dishonest and dehumanizing technique that purportedly eliminates those conditions of chance and accident upon which, it can safely be conceded, certain of the more unsavory traditions of Western music are founded. The lobbyists also claim that the common splice sabotages some unified architectural conception which they assume the performer possesses.

      It seems to me that two facts challenge these objections. The first is that many of the supposed virtues of the performer's "unified conception" relate to nothing more inherently musical than the "running scared" and "go-for-broke" psychology built up through decades of exposure to the loggione of Parma and their like. Claudio Arrau was recently quoted by the English journal Records and Recordings to the effect that he would not authorize the release of records derived from a live performance since, in his opinion, public auditions provoke stratagems which, having been designed to fill acoustical and psychological requirements of the concert situation, are irritating and antiarchitectural when subjected to repeated playbacks. The second fact is that one cannot ever splice style -- one can only splice segments which relate to a conviction about style. And whether one arrives at such a conviction pre-taping or post-taping (another of the time-transcending luxuries of recording: the post-taping reconsideration of performance), its existence is what matters, not the means by which it is effected.

      A recent personal experience will perhaps illustrate an interpretative conviction obtained post-taping. A year or so ago, while recording the concluding fugues from Volume I of the Well-Tempered Clavier, I arrived at one of Bach's celebrated contrapuntal obstacle courses, the Fugue in A minor. This is a structure even more difficult to realize on the piano than are most of Bach's fugues, because it consists of four intense voices that determinedly occupy a register in the center octaves of the keyboard -- the area of the instrument in which truly independent voice-leading is most difficult to establish. In the process of recording this fugue we attempted eight takes. Two of these at the time were regarded, according to the producer's notes, as satisfactory. Both of them, Nr. 6 and Nr. 8 respectively, were complete takes requiring no inserted splice -- by no means a special achievement since the fugue's duration is only a bit over two minutes. Some weeks later, however, when the results of this session were surveyed in an editing cubicle and when Takes 6 and 8 were played several times in rapid alternation, it became apparent that both had a defect of which we had been quite unaware in the studio: both were monotonous.

      Each take had used a different style of phrase delineation in dealing with the thirty-one-note subject of this fugue -- a license entirely consistent with the improvisatory liberties of baroque style. Take 6 had treated it in a solemn, legato, rather pompous fashion, while in Take 8 the fugue subject was shaped in a prevailingly staccato manner which led to a general impression of skittishness. Now, the Fugue in A minor is given to concentrations of stretti and other devices for imitation at close quarters, so that the treatment of the subject determines the atmosphere of the entire fugue. Upon most sober reflection, it was agreed that neither the Teutonic severity of Take 6 nor the unwarranted jubilation of Take 8 could be permitted to represent our best thoughts on this fugue. At this point someone noted that, despite the vast differences in character between the two takes, they were performed at an almost identical tempo (a rather unusual circumstance, to be sure, since the prevailing tempo is almost always the result of phrase delineation) and it was decided to turn this to advantage by creating one performance to consist alternately of Takes 6 and 8.

      Once this decision had been made, it was a simple matter to expedite it. It was obvious that the somewhat overbearing posture of Take 6 was entirely suitable for the opening exposition as well as for the concluding statements of the fugue, while the more effervescent character of Take 8 was a welcome relief in the episodic modulations with which the center portion of the fugue is concerned. And so two rudimentary splices were made, one which jumps from Take 6 to Take 8 in bar 14 and another which at the return to A minor (I forget which measure, but you are invited to look for it) returns as well to Take 6. What had been achieved was a performance of this particular fugue far superior to anything that we could at the time have done in the studio. There is, of course, no reason why such a diversity of bowing styles could not have been applied to this fugue subject as part of a regulated a priori conception. But the necessity of such diversity is unlikely to become apparent during the studio session just as it is unlikely to occur to a performer operating under concert conditions. By taking advantage of the post-taping afterthought, however, one can very often transcend the limitations that performance imposes upon the imagination.

      When the performer makes use of this postperformance editorial decision, his role is no longer compartmentalized. In a quest for perfection, he sets aside the hazards and compromises of his trade. As an interpreter, as a go-between serving both audience and composer, the performer has always been, after all, someone with a specialist's knowledge about the realization or actualization of notated sound symbols. It is, then, perfectly consistent with such experience that he should assume something of an editorial role. Inevitably, however, the functions of the performer and of the tape editor begin to overlap. Indeed, in regard to decisions such as that taken in the case of the above-mentioned A minor Fugue, it would be impossible for the listener to establish at which point the authority of the performer gave way to that of the producer and the tape editor, just as even the most observant cinema-goer cannot ever be sure whether a particular sequence of shots derives from circumstances occasioned by the actor's performance, from the exigencies of the cutting-room, or from the director's a priori scheme. That the judgment of the performer no longer solely determines the musical result is inevitable. It is, however, more than compensated by the overwhelming sense of power which editorial control makes available to him.




As for the morality of splicing, I suppose there should be no objection to Toscanini's not liking what an oboe did on the first take and not liking what a flute did in the second and then taking the best parts of each take to make a whole. It's still essentially Toscanini. Whatever moral uneasiness I have about such things is just a holdover from the past and perhaps I should adapt myself to the possibilities of the present. But I don't like the idea of Schwarzkopf putting her high C on Flagstad's recording. -- HAGGIN










Tape splicing isn't a moral question at all, any more than the number of stagehands used backstage at a play production is a moral question or the number of revisions of a book is a moral question. It's really the product that counts. The consumer's only concern should be what he hears and how he reacts to what he hears. He has a legitimate complaint only when the splicing technique actually does affect the final product, when the impact or the over-all line is damaged because of obvious inserts. -- McCLURE










Tape splicing borders on immorality because there are many artists today on the concert stage or in the opera house who cannot give you the performance in life that they can give you on records. -- MOHR










Here's the dilemma. You get an extraordinarily beautiful take of a movement, but there are two or three flaws -- a horn didn't quite make it, or the pizzicati weren't together, or something. Now you go back and retake the movement, but somehow the men and the conductor can't recapture the same peak of expression. What do you do? If you're sensible and not involved in moral issues, you fix those few mistakes in the first take with inserts from the inferior take -- using as little as possible, to be sure -- and what you end up with is something far beyond what is normally possible at a concert. -- McCLURE










Splicing presents a great temptation when you're putting something together and you know you can make it almost flawless. You can't help wanting to do it. I suppose it's the human aspiration to perfection. But there is always the possibility that you could get something absolutely perfect and it would be absolutely boring. -- MOHR

The "Live" Performance on Records

      THE CHARACTERISTICS enumerated on our inventory represent the past rendered in terms that seem appropriate to the electronic age. Although they compile, by themselves, an impressive list of present-day convictions about the way in which music should be performed, they do not, except by implication, suggest a direction for recording to pursue. It is quite likely that these preferences engendered by phonographic reproduction -- clarity of definition, analytic dissection by microphones, catholicity of repertoire, etc. -- will determine to a considerable extent the kind of sound with which we shall want our musical experiences to be endowed. It is less likely that the recording industry will always concern itself primarily with an archival representation of the past, no matter how painstakingly embalmed, but for a long time to come some portion of the industry's activity will be devoted to merchandising the celebrated masterworks which form our musical tradition. Before examining the larger ramifications for the future of recording, I should like to consider here some hardy strains of argument that perennially decry the influence of recording upon standard items of the repertoire and upon the hierarchy of the musical profession. These arguments sometimes overlap each other, and it can become rather difficult to detect the area of protest with which each is concerned. However, under a general heading of "humanitarian idealism" one might list three distinguishable subspecies, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. An argument for aesthetic morality: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf appends a missing high C to a tape of Tristan otherwise featuring Kirsten Flagstad, and indignant purists, for whom music is the last blood sport, howl her down, furious at being deprived a kill.
  2. Eye versus ear orientation: a doctrine that celebrates the existence of a mystical communication between concert performer and public audience (the composer being seldom mentioned). There is a vaguely scientific pretention to this argument, and its proponents are given to pronouncements on "natural" acoustics and related phenomena.
  3. Automation: a crusade which musicians' union leaders currently share ,with typesetters and which they affirm with the fine disdain of featherbedding firemen for the diesel locomotive. In the midst of a proliferation of recorded sound which virtually erases earlier listening patterns, the American Federation of Musicians promotes that challenging motto "LIVE MUSIC IS BEST" -- A judgment with the validity of a "Win with Wilkie" sticker on the windshield of a well-preserved '39 LaSalle.

      As noted, these arguments tend to overlap and are often joined together in celebration of occasions that afford opportunity for a rear-guard holding action. Among such occasions, none has proved more useful than the recent spate of recorded "live" performances -- events which straddle two worlds and are at home in neither. These events affirm the humanistic ideal of performance; they eschew (so we are told!) splices and other mechanical adventures, and hence are decidedly "moral"; they usually manage to suppress a sufficient number of pianissimo chords by an outbreak of bronchitis from the floor to advertise their "live"-ness and confirm the faith of the heroically unautomated.

      They have yet another function, which is, in fact, the essence of their appeal for the short-sellers: they provide documentation pertaining to a specific date. They are forever represented as occasions indisputably of and for their time. They spurn that elusive time-transcending objective which is always within the realization of recorded music. For all time, they can be examined, criticized, or praised as documents securely located in time, and about which, because of that assurance, a great deal of information and, in a certain sense, an emotional relation, is immediately available. With regard to the late Dutch craftsman who, having hankered to take upon himself the mantle of Vermeer, was martyred for a reluctance to live by the hypocrisy of this argument, I think of this fourth circumstance -- this question of historical date -- as the Van Meegeren syndrome.

      Hans Van Meegeren was a forger and an artisan who, for a long time, has been high on my list of private heroes. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that the magnificent morality play which was his trial perfectly epitomizes the confrontation between those values of identity and of personal-responsibility-for-authorship which post-Renaissance art has until recently accepted and those pluralistic values which electronic forms assert. In the 1930s, Van Meegeren decided to apply himself to a study of Vermeer's techniques and -- for reasons undoubtedly having more to do with an enhancement of his ego than with greed for guilders -- distributed the works thus achieved as genuine, if long-lost, masterpieces. His prewar success was so encouraging that during the German occupation he continued apace with sales destined for private collectors in the Third Reich. With the coming of V.E. Day, he was charged with collaboration as well as with responsibility for the liquidation of national treasures. In his defense, Van Meegeren confessed that these treasures were but his own invention and, by the values this world applies, quite worthless -- an admission which so enraged the critics and historians who had authenticated his collection in the first place that he was rearraigned on charges of forgery and some while later passed away in prison.

      The determination of the value of a work of art according to the information available about it is a most delinquent form of aesthetic appraisal. Indeed, it strives to avoid appraisal on any ground other than that which has been prepared by previous appraisals. The moment this tyranny of appraisaldom is confronted by confused chronological evidence, the moment it is denied a predetermined historical niche in which to lock the object of its analysis, it becomes unserviceable and its proponents hysterical. The furor that greeted Van Meegeren's conflicting testimony, his alternate roles of hero and villain, scholar and fraud, decisively demonstrated the degree to which an aesthetic response was genuinely involved.

      Some months ago, in an article in the Saturday Review, I ventured that the delinquency manifest by this sort of evaluation might be demonstrated if one were to imagine the critical response to an improvisation which, through its style and texture, suggested that it might have been composed by Joseph Haydn. (Let's assume it to be brilliantly done and most admirably Haydn-esque.) I suggested that if one were to concoct such a piece, its value would remain at par -- that is to say, at Haydn's value -- only so long as some chicanery were involved in its presentation, enough at least to convince the listener that it was indeed by Haydn. If, however, one were to suggest that although it much resembled Haydn it was, rather, a youthful work of Mendelssohn, its value would decline; and if one chose to attribute it to a succession of authors, each of them closer to the present day, then -- regardless of their talents or historical significance -- the merits of this same little piece would diminish with each new identification. If, on the other hand, one were to suggest that this work of chance, of accident, of the here and now, was not by Haydn but by a master living some generation or two before his time (Vivaldi, perhaps), then this work would become -- on the strength of that daring, that foresight, that futuristic anticipation landmark in musical composition.

      And all of this would come to pass for no other reason than that we have never really become equipped to adjudicate music per se. Our sense of history is captive of an analytical method which seeks out isolated moments of stylistic upheaval -- pivot points of idiomatic evolution -- and our value judgments are largely based upon the degree to which we can assure ourselves that a particular artist participated in or, better yet, anticipated the nearest upheaval. Confusing evolution with accomplishment, we become blind to those values not explicit in an analogy with stylistic metamorphosis.

      The Van Meegeren syndrome is entirely apropos our subject because the arguments contra the prospects of recording are constructed upon identical criteria. They rely, most of all, upon a similar confirmation of historical data. Deprived of this confirmation, their system of evaluation is unable to function; it is at sea, derelict amidst an unsalvageable debris of evidence, and it casts about in search of a point by which to take a bearing. When recordings are at issue, such a point cannot readily be found. The inclination of electronic media. is to extract its content from historic date. The moment we can force a work of art to conform to our notion of what was appropriate to its chronology, we can attribute to it, arbitrarily if necessary, background against which in our analysis it can be portrayed. Most aesthetic analysis confines itself to background description and avoids the foreground manipulation of the object being analyzed. And this fact alone, discarding the idle propaganda of the public-relations machines, accounts for the endorsement of the recorded public event. Indirectly, the real object of this endorsement is a hopelessly outmoded system of aesthetic analysis -- a system incapable of a contribution in the electronic age but the only system for which most spokesmen of the arts are trained.

      Recordings produced in a studio resist a confirmation of such criteria. Here date is an elusive factor. Though a few companies solemnly inscribe the date of the studio sessions with each recorded package, and though the material released by most large companies can, except perhaps in the case of reissues, be related to a release number that will suggest an approximate date to the aficionado, it is possible that the music heard on that recording will have been obtained from sessions held weeks, months, or indeed years apart. Those sessions may easily have been held in different cities, different countries taped with different equipment and different technical personnel, and they may feature performers whose attitudes to the repertoire under consideration has metamorphosed dramatically between the taping of the first note and the last. Such a recording might currently pose insuperable contractual problems but its complicated gestation would be entirely consistent with the nature of the recording process.

      It would also be consistent with that evolution of the performing musician which recording necessitates. As the performer's once sacrosanct privileges are merged with the responsibilities of the tape editor and the composer, the Van Meegeren syndrome can no longer be cited as an indictment but becomes rather an entirely appropriate description of the aesthetic condition in our time. The role of the forger, of the unknown maker of unauthenticated goods, is emblematic of electronic culture. And when the forger is done honor for his craft and no longer reviled for his acquisitiveness, the arts will have become a truly integral part of our civilization.

©Hachette Filipacchi Magzines, Inc.

Even if I were to grant all the things that are possible in the making of a record, I would still want certain performances live. You get something there sometimes which you just can't achieve in the recording studios. The live concert hall performance, or even such a performance recorded, could very well have qualities that are preferable -- with all their imperfections -- to one assembled from recording studio takes. -- HAGGIN












There is no excuse at all for recording live concerts. It's a lazy and cheap way to make records. Only if your artist -- and he must be an important artist -- is old or ill and there is no other chance to record him do I see any reason for these "live" recordings. Then you have a duty to preserve the concert as an historical document -- warts, coughs, and all. I really doubt that anyone really plays better with an audience than without. They may think they do. But actually they only feel better. Listen to a transcription of a recorded concert that had the audience feeling "My God, that was wonderful" and you will find that it really wasn't that good. But it was an occasion, like a funeral, and one is excited and moved by having been part of the audience. When somebody buys the record he feels that he has been swindled if he doesn't go crazy like the audience of 2,000 or 3,000 that was present and so he doesn't apply his usual critical faculties. . . He is a conditioned dog. -- CULSHAW












It may be my imagination, but I sometimes think a live performance does have more electricity, more excitement. There are more mistakes, of course, but if the artist is really in the vein, it can be more authentic, more vital. Many musicians freeze up in the recording studio as soon as the red light goes on. -- MOHR












The only justification for "live performance" recording is if it's a legitimately historic and unduplicatable occasion. Otherwise I don't advocate it. We find that the critics and the public are no longer willing to take recorded recitals or concerts in lieu of carefully prepared studio recordings, and I must agree with them. -- McCLURE

Gould's notes on Bach's Goldberg Variations.


These notes were included in the program for recital at Plateau Hall in Montreal, November 7, 1955 in which he played the Goldberg Variations.

     The most casual acquaintance with this work - a first hearing, or a brief glance at the score - will manifest the baffling incongruity between the imposing dimensions of the variations and the unassuming Sarabande which conceived them.

     We are accustomed to consider at least one of two prerequisites indispensable to an Air for variations, a theme with a melodic curve which veritably entreats ornamentation, or an harmonic basis, stripped to its fundamentals, pregnant with promise and capacity for exhaustive exploitation. Though there are abundant examples of the former procedure from the Renaissance to the present day, it flourishes through the theme-and-elaborative-variation concept of the rococo. The latter method, which, by stimulating linear inventiveness, suggests a certain analogy with the passacaille style of reiterated bass progression, is strikingly portrayed by Beethoven's 32 variations in C minor.

     The present work utilises the Sarabande from Anna Magdalena Bach's notebook as a passacaille - that is, only its bass progression is duplicated in the variations. Indeed, this noble bass binds each variation with the inexorable assurance of its own inevitability. This structure possesses in its own right a completeness, a solidarity which suggests nothing of the urgent longing for fulfilment which is implicit in the traditionally terse entry of a Ciaccona statement.

     One might justifiably expect that in view of the constancy the harmonic foundation of the principal pursuit of the variations would be the illumination of motivic facets within the melodic complex of the Aria theme. However, such is not the case, for the thematic substance, a docile but richly embellished soprano line, possesses an intrinsic homogeneity which bequeathes nothing to posterity and which, so far as motivic representation is concerned, is totally forgotten during the 30 variations. In short it is a singularly self-sufficient little air which seems to sun the patriarchal demeanour, to exhibit a bland unconcern about its issue, to remain totally uninquisitive as to its raison d'être.

     Nothing could better demonstrate the aloof carriage of the Aria, than the precipitous outburst of Variation 1 which abruptly curtails the preceeding tranquillity. Such aggression is scarcely the attitude we associate with prefatory variations, which customarily embark with unfledged dependence on the theme, simulating the pose of their precursor and functioning with a modest opinion of their present capacity but a thorough optimism for future prospects.

     With Variation 2 we have the first instance of the confluence of these juxtaposed qualities - that curious hybrid of clement composure and cogent command which typifies the virile ego of the Goldberg.

     With Variation 3 begin the canons which subsequently occupy every third segment of the work. In the canons, the literal imitation is confined to the two upper voices, while the accompanying part, which is present in all but the final canon at the ninth, is left free to convert the tema del basso, in most cases at least, to a suitably acquiescent complement.

     Nor is such intense contrapuntal preoccupation solely the property of the canonic variations. Many of those numbers of "independent Character" expand minute thematic cells into an elaborate linear texture. Since the Aria melody, as afore-mentioned, evades intercourse with the rest of the work, the individual variation voraciously consumes the potential of a motivic germ peculiar to it, thus exercising an entirely subjective aspect of the variation concept.

     The great cycle concludes with that boisterous exhibition of Deutsche Freundlichkeit, the Quodlibet. Then, as though it could not longer suppress a smug smile at the progress of its progeny; the original Sarabande, anything but a dutiful parent, returns to us to bask in the reflected glory of an aria de capo.

     It is no accident that the great cycle should conclude thus. Nor does the aria's return simply constitute a gesture of benign benediction. Rather is its suggestion of perpetuity indicative of the essential incorporeality of the Goldberg, symbolic of its rejection of embryonic inducement.

     It is in a short music which observes neither end nor beginning, music with neither real climax nor real resolution, yet music in which there exists a fundamental coordinating intelligence which we labelled "ego". It has, then, unity through intuitive perception, unity born of craft and scrutiny, mellowed by mastery achieved, and revealed to us here, as so rarely in art, in the vision of subconscious design exulting upon a pinnacle of potency.

-- Glenn Gould

Gould's notes for Schönberg's Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 42.


Included with the program for Cleveland Orchestra concert, Severance Hall, Cleveland, Ohio, November 26-28, 1959.

Here follows the essay by Glenn Gould, written especially for this program.

     As one who habitually arrives at all concerts (even my own) seconds after the house lights have been lowered, I have always felt a bond of sympathy with those whose entry is marked by curses of ushers and aisle-sitters, by the discomfiture of the house-manager when a hushed and expectant audience is made aware that seats 5 and 6 in Row L have not been oiled this year, and who, having swung into their place with the aid of a neighbour's lapel, busy themselves in urgent analytic preparation for the ordeal to come. For all such I preface these notes with a very brief summary of certain salient facts about the Schönberg piano concerto which, in the words of the aspirin commercial, "will go to work instantly" and in which I refrain from specific musical illustration not so much from considerations of time as from fear that the concentration of an entire audience upon one reproduced musical example would transmit an intolerable telepathic wave to the poor oboist striving manfully to hold an A. In reward for my thoughtfulness I ask only that, before retiring, the reader will give due deliberation to the more complex thoughts of the essay proper, perhaps digesting them along with a portion of cinnamon toast and warm milk.

      The piano concerto, though continuous, follows the four-movement order established by the Brahms B-flat major concerto -- a scherzo being interpolated between the first and third movements. The first movement is in the form of a theme and variations, the third is a monumental Adagio, and the fourth is a rondo with a unique twist which will be dealt with in the main body of my notes. It is a work of great formal strength, yet elastic enough to permit the twelve-tone row to exert itself as an organising force. Thus, it is impossible to dissect such a work in the conventional analytic terms applied, for instance, to a Beethoven concerto. Schönberg was not a completely happy twelve-tone composer in the sense that he was never entirely without nostalgia for the forms of the past. Yet it is, in a way, this yearning, this pathos, which gives his work its unique power and tension and very human drama.

      Schönberg spent the last twenty years of his life in the United States, and his only work for piano and orchestra was composed in California in 1942. His American residence brought to fruition his career as the most indefatigable musical explorer of all time. He came to this country in 1934, recognised by a handful of cognoscenti as a man who had approached a cross-roads of musical history, and who, with unflinching courage, had selected a path and erected a signpost to the future. To an unsympathetic public he represented the horror of anarchy, the terrifying indulgence of the supra-personal, the ingratitude of the distrustful creature who shuns the mores of society.

      Today, less than a decade after his death, it is the historical view, the continuity of his achievements, the long line of uninterrupted search which the name Schönberg conjures up for an ever-growing public. With an additional quarter-century of listening we have been able to define his relationship to the past, have conceded the validity of extending the harmonic language of Wagner until in pursuit of logical extremity it disintegrates before our eyes, and of re-assembling from the shapeless rubble of atonality an edifice which, by reason and logic, could once more bear the proud rigors of artistic discipline. Yet to most people the name Schönberg still represents an aesthetic stance which for all its dynamic vigour is felt to be arbitrary and domineering, thought incompatible with the meekness and compromise of the human estate.

      Schönberg's most celebrated achievement, the defining of a technique for composition with twelve tones, has brought about this colossal misunderstanding of his musical personality. We admit the validity of its preoccupation with primary functional design much as we concede the basic constructive aims of a Cézanne, or of a Gropius, yet we deny it a larger and freer association with the instinctive creative process, ascribing to it neither the warmth and colour of Cézanne nor the utility and sanity of Gropius. To an extent, Schönberg was as responsible as anyone for the creation of his public image as arbiter of musical mathematics. In his life he was surrounded by a mystique of numbers, a superstitious endowment of chance which often belied the warmth and dignity of his creative labours. His analyses of the classics, for all their perception, too often protested unrealistically the existence of absolute contrapuntal authority in eras to which such an approach was essentially foreign. Some of his disciples, notably Alban Berg, attributed an almost apocalyptic prescience to numerical order and thus did little to assuage the doubts of those who cringed in terror as the old romantic art of music seemed once more to be enchained by an arithmetical process of mediaeval exactitude.

      It can be argued, of course, that in truth there is nothing more romantic than the juggling of numbers, as though they were some joyous plaything issued by the gods to entice man and tantalize him and represent to him an equation of the cosmic enigma. Yet the intellectual posture of our time was incontestably conditioned by the post-Romantic concept of free association, the influence of the subconscious, and the starry delusion that the great artist lives for great moments. Thus, every man has taken a position on Schönberg; but not I think, irrevocably.

      Schönberg's American years were notable for a return to symphonic composition. His early works were dominated by the memory of Wagner and stand silhouetted in the twilight glow of the tonal epoch. Their transcendent lyricism finds fitting expression in the superb Lieder of Op. 2, 3, 6, 8, and in the giant orchestral drama, "Pelléas and Mélisande". The middle years, which may be calculated as being the period between the renunciation of tonality in his music (1908) and the first concentrated efforts in the tone-row technique (1923), witnessed a reaction to the sweeping epics of romanticism in works which stressed brevity, clarity, and precision. The alarming licence of tonal free trade caused Schönberg to gravitate toward a rational classicism for which the architectural formulae of the eighteenth century provided scholastic discipline and in which the participating forces were reduced to chamber proportions.

      It is in this neo-classic environment that Schönberg's first tentative twelve-tone steps were taken. As was proper to their eighteenth century models, his first essays in twelve-tone writing were exercises in straightforward row technique. Such architectural forms as the dance suite, for instance, provided a convenient mould into which the first twelve-tone fluid might be poured. Thus the most marked feature of these early twelve-tone efforts is a rather external poise and grace.

      Schönberg had long been aware, however, that before twelve-tone music might be said to have achieved sovereignty, the forms engendered by it would have to own of something specifically related to twelve-tone procedure something in which the growth of the most minute organism, the embryonic cell of sound would be reflected. It has been said quite seriously that whatever forms Schönberg applied to music the only constant constructive force in his work was the principle of variation. Indeed, the variation concept in its most natural state -- that of constant evolution -- provides the best synthesis of twelve-tone theory. The attraction of twelve-tone practitioners to the idea of perpetual development was as much an emotional appeal as an affair of the mind. Schönberg himself invented some rather sticky symbols for the unity of the work and the twelve-tone determinant likening composition to the human body which, wherever it was pricked, produced blood. Such constancy has never, needless to say, quite been achieved. To achieve it would necessitate the extension of what was initially a melodic or horizontal concept into the vertical or harmonic sphere.

      Schönberg, in his early twelve-tone works, frequently presented two transpositions of the row simultaneously, thus making a distinct division between melodic and harmonic participation. In the middle thirties, he began more and more frequently to use one transposition at a time, subdividing it into harmonic groups so that a succession of chords was formed from the row with points of melodic line appearing as uppermost factors of these chords. Thus the harmonic control of the tone-row was tightened, while the melodic dimension was somewhat released from bondage. By the later thirties, Schöenberg was attempting to amalgamate both procedures by a simultaneous exposition of two transpositions of the same row-but a row so devised that, should it be reproduced at a specific interval and (usually) inverted, the first six tones of the original become, though in shuffled order, the last six of the inversion, and -- if there is anyone who is not now thoroughly confused -- vice versa.

      The piano concerto possesses such a row. Its original form is so arranged that, if it is inverted at five semitones above, the following results:

EXAMPLE A

      If these two transpositions are combined it will be seen that the first six tones of the original and the first six tones of the inversion produce one complete twelve-tone spectrum, while utilising only the interval combinations of half the row. Thus, within the harmonic range of a full tone-row, a greater economy of interval structure is achieved. If the row of the piano concerto is subdivided into four chords of three tones each, two positions of the same seventh chord are formed by the superposition of tones 1- 3 and 4- 6.

EXAMPLE B

      The same procedure applied to the consequent tones, 7-9, 10-12, makes a combination of fourth chords and whole-tone units, and passages such as the following are derived:

EXAMPLE C

      In somewhat subtler ways the two halves of the row are frequently assigned distinctive rhythmic shapes or perhaps consigned to different clefs.

EXAMPLE D

      The harmonic possibilities of the row have a good deal to do with the overall formal enterprise. The work is in four movements joined without pause -- or perhaps more accurately, with apostrophes -- and each of these four movements develops a special aspect of the harmonic treatment of the row. In the first movement, which is a theme and variations, the theme is assigned to the right hand of the piano and consists of the four basic applications of the twelve-tone series the original form, the inversion, the retrogression and the retrogressive inversion. The inversion and retrogressive inversion appear in the transposition at five semitones. The accompaniment in the left hand consists of discreet comments derived from the row in use. Therefore, the theme of the first movement effects a pseudo-tonal solidarity by confining itself to one transposition (if the inversion at five semitones be regarded as indigenous) of the row. Each successive variation (there are three separated by episodes of rhythmic preparation) increases the number of participating transpositions of the series and hence puts pressure on the harmonic pace and results in a truncation of the main theme itself. In the first eight bars of variation 3 the original theme, or rather the first of its four sentences, is derived by excerpting and accenting individual notes drawn from no less than seven transpositions plus their complementary inversions.

The second movement is an energetic scherzo propelled by this rhythmic unit:

EXAMPLE E

      In this movement, Schönberg, counting on greater aural familiarity with the properties of the 3-tone chord units illustrated in Examples B and C, begins disconnecting successive tones of the original row and concocting new melodic and harmonic material by leapfrogging tones 1,3,5 2,4,6; similarly tones 7,9,11, and 8,10,12. The even numbers of the antecedent (2,4,6) and the odd numbers of the consequent (7,9,11) form chromatically adjoining fourth chords while the remaining tones (1,3,5 -8,10,12) produce a wry diminutive of tones 10-12 from the original set:

EXAMPLE F

      Utilising this division of the series and playing it off against the original's consequent segment of whole-tone units in fourth-chords, Schönberg gradually eliminates all other motives and realizes in the final bars of the scherzo an almost total technical immobility.

      If the scherzo is the dynamic vortex of the work, the emotional centre is surely the superb Adagio -- one of the greatest monuments to Schönberg's technical skill. Here the procedures of both of the preceding movements are elaborated and combined. The a divisi melodic leapfrogging of the scherzo creates in the opening tutti of tile third movement of new melody of true breadth and grandeur:

EXAMPLE G

      Once again, as Schönberg assumes a greater psychological comprehension on the part of the listener, a further relaxation of the twelve-tone bondage is permitted. The four harmonic blocks of the original row, (Example B and C) are concentrated in a long solo for the piano. Then, with consummate mastery, these two procedures are brought together in an orchestral tutti which is one of the grandest edifices of the mature Schöenberg.

      The final movement is a rondo -- a pure, classically proportioned rondo -- in which the central episode is a series of three variations upon the theme of the third movement (Example G). In this movement Schönberg returns largely to the straightforward row technique of the first movement, constructing a principal theme of jocose gallantry with admirable limitation of serial means, and the movement proceeds with the sort of virtuosic abandon and incorruptible simplicity that the rondos of Mozart and Beethoven reveal.

      Yet, curiously enough this movement, and hence the entire work, was the occasion for one of the oddest bits of analytical misconception ever encountered. Some years ago, in a leading musicological journal -- for which I have regrettably misplaced volume and number but which because of its incredibility remains indelibly with me -- the distinguished scholar Kurt List maintained with a perfectly straight face that the work consisted of three, not four, movements -- the finale being a conjunction of the Adagio and the rondo. I strongly suspect that the above-mentioned variations in the middle of the rondo were responsible for this amazing deduction, and while I am sure that no one will lose sleep over the burning question, it is, I think, indicative of the sort of mathematical twaddle which for so long and so frequently governed the analyses even of those who ardently espoused the cause of Schönberg's music, and which could with little or no reason refute the application of instinctive logic.

      I think it is not too optimistic to state that Schönberg's music will shortly experience yet another evaluation, in which even the most formidable elements of design will be seen in their proper creative perspective, be freed from all unnecessary association with the extra-musical -- an evaluation in which Schönberg will finally emerge as one of the most 'natural' and least problematic of musical minds.

- GLENN GOULD (All rights reserved)

      "Music without ideas is unthinkable, and people who are not willing to use their brains to understand music which cannot be fully grasped at first hearing are simply lazy-minded ... Every true work of art to be understood has to be thought about; otherwise it has no inherent life."

      "I warn you of the dangers lurking in the die-hard reaction against romanticism. The old romanticism is dead -- long live the new! The composer of today without some trace of romanticism in his heart must be lacking in something fundamentally human."

      "If a composer does not write from the heart, he simply cannot produce good music. I write what I feel in my heart -- and what finally comes on paper is what first coursed through every fiber of my body."

- ARNOLD Schönberg

A Consideration of Anton Webern


Mimeograph, distributed with program for New Music Associates concert, Toronto, October 3, 1953 (rescheduled to January 9, 1954).


     The names of Schönberg, Berg and Webern are so frequently linked as a trinity that the casual listener might presuppose a basis for stylistic identity among the masters of the modern Viennese school. It is true that a certain spiritual affinity emanated from their common culture and that the teacher-student relationship stimulated a unity of purpose based upon a shared concept of musical evolution. In fact, this concept provided the impetus for the creative activity of these men in so far as each sought to construct his work as a logical development of the conditions which constituted his heritage. But the growing experience of musical consciousness of the composers caused each to emphasize particular aspects of the traditional elements of art, reactivating and channeling them in a course consistent with the dictates of his own genius. One has only to compare any of the works of Schönberg, Berg and Webern written at the same period, to recognize that we are dealing with musical personalities, intensely complex and fundamentally distinct. Rather than attempt to trace the course of each of these personalities in these necessarily limited notes, I have confined myself to a few remarks about the most controversial and most easily misunderstood of this trio, Anton Webern.

     There is common to most musicians who have come under the influence of the Schönbergian universe an approach toward music, classic as well as contemporary, which attempts through analysis, to reduce all sound forms to the lowest possible denominator. That is, to search for motivic units which in some way contort and evolve themselves, and which thus can be considered embryonic organisms which formulate the totality of the structure. The development of this philosophy coincided with the decline of tonality in the nineteenth century, and in fact, constituted a replacement of the architectural functions of the decaying harmonic language. When one considers that during the first decade of Schönberg's work, his increasing use of chromatic resources steadily dissolved the bulwarks of tonality, and the precipitous collapse of triad harmony threatened an unregulated state of chaos, it is not surprising that the development of the detailed minutiae of the motivic complexes on a two-dimensional level became part and parcel of an artistic credo.

     Webern's approach to the problem of unifying the musical idea reveals an impeccable conscience. Even in his earliest works, he seems almost reluctant to write a single note which is not an indispensable participant in the totality, and which, one might almost say, cannot justify itself by an intellectual explanation of its presence. Obviously, the overall dimensions of such music must display a brevity consistent with their internal compactness. Schönberg once remarked that Webern has the gift of reducing a novel to a sigh. Possibly this extreme condensation within the formal mould of his structures has been the greatest stumbling-block to most listeners. No matter how radical may be the stylistic divergencies of Berg or Schönberg, their architectural designs, (the time element in their music) may, with few exceptions, be classed among the predertemined patterns of rococco and early romantic art. Webern allows his materials to create their own formal structures. It is significant that during the years following the cessation of the tonal impulse in their music and predeceding the arrangement of the laws governing the new atonal resources into the twelve-tone technique, that is 1908-1924, when Berg produced such works as his epic, "Wozzeck", Webern was content to experiment with this new world of sound in such a cautious manner that, until the most discriminating intellect of twentieth century music had been satisfied with the sureness of his craftmanship, he wrote only a series of works for various chamber combinations, many of which lasted but a few seconds, and none more than a couple of minutes. That one informed critic should have labeled a master with such indominitable integrity and honesty, a "parsimonious composer" shows the regrettable lack of understanding awarded Webern throughout his life.

     The string quartet pieces of Opus 5 are one of his first essays in atonal writing. Though nothing could display a less extrovert emotionalism, there is a strikingly sensual quality manifest not only in the treatment of the strings themselves, but also in the manner by which Webern frequently isolates an individual tone or short interval-group, and, by alternating dynamic levels and instrumental timbres, succeeds in immobilizing a particular pitch level around which the oblique shapes of his half-counterpoints seek to fulfill their evolutionary destinies. It seems to me that the expressionistic qualities of this music such as the above mentioned isolated tone procedure - (Klangfarbenmelodie) carries to its zenith the very essence of the romantic ideal of emotional intensity in art. Personally, I can never hear the mystical, opiated quality of the brief fourth movement without recalling one or other of the series of "Improvisations" with which Wassily Kandinsky, whose career closely parallels Webern's, began his essays in abstraction in this same year. Almost more than any other music this work symbolizes, for me, the instability of its period, the close of an epoch, and the over-lapping of ideals from a new era.

     Two decades separate these pieces from the Saxophone quartet, Opus 22. Those decades witnessed a most decisive step in the evolution of the musical language - a step which was the outcome of many years of experimentation for which the composers of the Viennese school were largely responsible. The formulation of the laws of the twelve-tone technique was a logical, though one would hesitate to say permanent, solution toward the problem of disclipining the resources of atonality. Its prime manifestation is the principle of the tone row, a sort of super motive which is considered not as a theme but rather as an embryonic complex within which are contained the various interval groups from whose consecutive movement melodically, and conjunct subdivision harmonically, is assembled the composition at hand. The results of this coercive and arbitrary procedure are off-set by the endless number of possibilities from which the principles of perpetual variation can draw. Though it would be a waste of time to defend the work of some adherents to the twelve-tone system who have proven themselves inextricably ensnared by the fatal fascination for mathematical wizardry, the fact remains that the essential idea is a grand one. Attached to the thought of the oneness of the musical conception is an aura of quite romantic evocation, allying itself with the preordained vision of the work of art on which much argument was spent in Schopenhauer's Germany.

     However, putting idealism aside it must be admitted that the twelve-tone technique has produced in its more extreme examples an end result which resists comparison with the traditional genre of romantic art. And it is precisely in the consideration of the extreme divergencies as exhibited in the works of Webern that we are forced to re-examine our own methods of musical evaluation. Of the three pre-eminent masters of modern Viennese music, Webern stands alone in that he seems to have been born to the system, to have lacked his natural element until he adopted it, and to have established its devices as the rhetoric at the base of his musical consciousness.

     Webern began to use the twelve-tone technique consistently after 1925 and, subsequently the solidity and assurance which were absent in many of the works of his transitional period, are felt in the more forceful and extended treatment, of his ideas. The Saxophone Quartet is one of the longer of his early twelve-tone works (it lasts almost eight minutes). The first movement is ternary in shape and canonic in texture. It opens with a five-bar introduction which lays bare the interval properties of his row in four three-tone groups which are echoed in inverted canon by a row transposed down two semi-tones. The canon is rhythmically altered to display subtle relationships between these two rows;

    A               B        C                 D

|-------|         |-----|  |----|          |-------|

 Db Bb A     C     B  Eb    E  F     F#     G# D  G

 B  D  E     C     C# A     G# G     F#     E  Bb F

|-------|         |-----|  |----|          |-------|

    B               A        D                 C

     Without reproducing the score it would be impossible to describe the ingenuity of this wonderfully placid prologue. Whereas in the opening of most of Schönberg's twelve-tone works, that composer makes his original row forms into a recognizable melody, in most cases harmonized by the subdivision of its tones vertically, and plunges us precipitously into the composition proper with as orthodox a beginning as anything of Mozart or Spohr. Webern's course pursues the opposite path. He detaches each significant factor in his row presentation, isolating it by a pause, as organically rhythmic and as expressively variable as the sound pattern. The use of silence as the frame of sound is, of course, as old as music itself. But Webern's utilization of it, not as punctuation, but as an integral part of the phrase gives to his melodic delineation the effect of a diagram in alternating patches of black and white. Compared to the virile symphonism of Schönberg the fragility of Webern's texture may seem almost puerile but those who are willing to adjust themselves to the plane of receptive sensitivity which Webern's musical thoughts demand, will find his works the product of the perfect raconteur, who possesses the sense of mystery which stimulates the telling of his narrative. And thus, in this wonderful opening of the "Saxophone Quartet", he carefully prepares us for the adventure in variation which constitutes the work.

     The main theme of the first movement, if one can still speak of themes in this music, has been described by Rene Liebowitz as a "cantus firmus for the saxophone", around which other instruments weave a lovely embroidery in the form of a two-part canon in contrary motion. The centre section of the movement is a canonic development of the motives from the introduction. The range and dynamic intensity are increased by enlarging some intervals an octave, and the development takes the form of a mirror episode proceeding retrogressively from its axis. The reprise of the cantus firmus, this time distributed among saxophone, clarinet and violin marks the recapitulation, with the piano being assigned both parts of the canon. Finally, five measures of epilogue which present retrogressively the two raw transpositions of the introduction bring the movement to a close. This andante has the shape of an arc, whose zenith is attained with the insertion of the mirror image (Spiegelbild) at the point when the span between the linear patterns has reached its apex, exactly five octaves separating the highest and lowest tones of the entire movement.

     While the first movement is notable for the severity of its outline, the second derives its effect from the spontaneity of its development. This is one of Webern's most extended movements and it is very difficult to apply to its one hundred and ninety-two measures the designation of any preconceived mould associated with tonality. It can only be described by a detailed analysis of the row technique which demonstrates the logic and significance of each section, as it evolves in perpetual variation. This movement, in fact, is one of the most conspicuous successes of Webern's twelve-tone period, a testament to the unfailing imagination which characterizes his use of the tone row technique. Moreover, the structural pliancy and lucidity which results bears witness that Webern is the rare example of a composer who has made the twelve-tone system serve to magnify the philosophy of aesthetics which all great artists comprehend - that sorcery lies within the very idea of creation.

     If I have a reservation about the "Saxophone Quartet", it is, that I have always found it difficult to reconcile myself to its two movements belonging to the same work. While each reveals the undeniable stamp of Webern's greatness, there is a disunity of mood between them which is accentuated by the diverse treatment of the tone row. Much the same may be said for the otherwise magnificent two-movement Symphony, Opus 21. But no such objection can be raised in considering the succeeding series of twelve-tone works, such as the Concerto for Nine Instruments and the Piano Variations. Unfortunately, I have not been able to become acquainted with the two cantatas for chorus and orchestra which Webern produced during the war years and which culminated his creative activities. Admitting this limitation of perspective, I feel that the Piano Variations, Opus 27 display, with the highest degree of refinement, those characteristics which we have already ascribed to Webern's musical development.

     The title, "Variations" seems almost ludicrous and redundant in view of the twelve-tone ideology. One cannot, of course, relate a twelve-tone work with this title, either to the ground base variation principle of the baroque, or the theme and melodic-elaborative variation type of the rococco. To be sure, in the second movement of his Symphony, (also entitled "Variations") Webern maintains a clearly marked division between his theme and its succeeding variants although the variations constitute an elaboration of structural elements within the theme itself and are quite athematic in character. In Opus 27 however, even this barrier of definition has been removed. The work is in three movements, each of which places specific values on certain associations within the row forms, the initial presentation of which constitutes the "theme". Webern is, however, remarkably exact about one detail. The number of measures which are alloted to theme and variants are maintained intact. Thus, the ternary first movement consists of three sections of eighteen measures each, the second movement's row presentation takes five and one-half bars and is followed by three variants of exactly that proportion, while the third movement's sixty-six measures are divided into a theme and five variations each of eleven bars.

     The first movement utilizes the Spiegelbild principle which was described in the "Saxophone Quartet." But here it serves not as a centre of gravity for the movement as a whole, but as the guiding principle within each segment. A mirror image is inserted at the centre of each phrase causing the consequent portion to recapitulate retrogressively the antecedent. Webern's use of the row in this movement is governed by this principle, for in the antecedent portions of each phrase, tones one to six are accompanied by tones twelve to seven; thus with the mirror image causing the consequent reflection, the entire phrase will consist of one row in its original form, accompanied by its retrogressive version. The character of the movement is also governed by this principle which brings each sentence close to the point of immobility, and a casual and leisurely expression is the result.

     The second movement is a strict canon in contrary motion which is so devised that between the four pairs of row transpositions which are employed, various patterns of relationship are established, and revealed by an effect of shading so novel that it must be ranked among the most important of Webern's contributions to instrumental technique. In this movement he makes use of only three dynamic levels, piano, forte and fortissimo, with no intemediate crescendi or diminuendi. He arranges his terse rhythmic figurations so that the relationships within the row forms are displayed by the alternation of these plateaus of volume.

     The final movement is more extended and consists of a "theme" and five variations which are recognizable by a gradual transition of mood, rather than by any too obvious boundary. The "theme" is almost monodic. There is, in fact, only one vertical coincidence in its eleven measures though several harmonic combinations are produced by suspension. Such a remarkable economical texture does not, in itself, constitute a criterion of merit. We must be careful to differentiate between 'simplified' art which has a vogue with the neoclassic and various "back-to-" cliques, and art in which purity and directness emanate from a creator who has visualized the dramatic intensity that can underline the appearance of each tone. There is no suggestion of reduction in this music. It was conceived this way. This final movement attains a climax with the rhythmic syncopation of the fourth variation. A coda, the final variation, more richly harmonized that the rest of the movement, utilized once again, a modified Spiegelbild, which assists it to subside into an all-enveloping serenity.

     It is, I suppose, inevitable to attempt a comparison between the twelve-tone works of Schönberg and of Webern. One cannot, of course, ignore the strong bond of kinship which exists between the two men, nor deny the idealistic outlook which manifests itself in the use of the twelve-tone system by the Viennese fraternity in general. But however closely allied may be the general outlook and Utopian aspirations, it is left to the personality to determine the products of great men, and there is really no more excuse for categorizing Webern with Schönberg, than Kandinsky with Kokoschka, or Thomas Mann with Nietzsche.

     In all of his mature twelve-tone works, Schönberg turns a powerful ray of light upon every detail of his structure and, often with complete lack of reservation, illuminates the most intimate details of the motivic-fragments metamorphosis. If his means, therefore, become obvious it is because his aims are grandiose. Webern's is a more suggestive art. Although in his use of the twelve-tone technique he shows even greater consistency than Schönberg, a microscopic inspection and tabulation of each possibility is foreign to the delicacy of his style and the reticence of his manner. In many of his later works we are almost unaware of the schematic manipulations of his technical devices.

     The extent to which he draws upon the total resources of the twelve-tone vocabulary is regulated by a very singular selectivity. From this somewhat epicurean temperament stem those qualities of refinement and discrimination which we have already discussed. And it is these qualities which, originally motivated by a desire for technical fastidiousness, approach, in his maturity, a realm of emotional transcendence. There is an almost unearthly intuitiveness about the last works of Webern. It is as if he sought a metaphysic with each creation. It would be false to suggest that his is purely a cerebral craft. The gratification of the intellect and of the senses is inseparable in art. However, any physical response or sensual stimulation has been elevated to so subliminal a state, that it is very difficult to relate Anton Webern's music to the world as we know it. But on the rare occasions in art, when we find revealed a visionary region of such paradisacal enchantment, it is the happier diversion not to try.

-- Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould Interviews Glenn Gould About Glenn Gould


From High Fidelity, February 1974.  (by permission of Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Inc.)


glenn gould:  Mr.  Gould, I gather that you have a reputation as a - well, forgive me for being blunt, sir - but as a tough nut to crack, interview-wise ? 

GLENN GOULD:  Really.  I've never heard that. 

g. g. :  Well, it's the sort of scuttlebutt that we media types pick up from source to source, but I just want to assure you that I’m quite prepared to strike from the record any question you may feel is out of line. 

G. G. : Oh, I can't conceive of any problems of that sort intruding upon out deliberations. 

g. g. : Well then, just to clear the air, sir, let me ask straight out:  Are there any off-limit areas? 

G. G. : I certainly can't think of any - apart from music, of course. 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, I don't want to go back on my word.  I realize that your participation in this interview was never contractually confirmed, but it was sealed with a handshake. 

G. G. :  Figuratively speaking, of course. 

g. g. :  Of course.  And I had rather assumed that we'd spend the bulk of this interview on musically related matters. 

G. G. :  Do you think it's essential ?  I mean, my personal philosophy of interviewing - and I've done quite a bit of it on the air, as you perhaps know - is that the most illuminating disclosures derive from areas only indirectly related to the interviewee's line of work. 

g. g. :  For example? 

G. G. :  Well, for example, in the course of preparing radio documentaries, I've interviewed a theologian about technology, a surveyor about William James, an economist about pacifism and a housewife about acquisitiveness in the art market. 

g. g. :  But surely you've also interviewed musicians about music? 

G. G. :  Yes, I have, on occasion, in order to help put them at ease in front of the mike.  But it's been far more instructive to talk with Pablo Casals, for example, about the concept of the zeitgeist, which, of course, is not unrelated to music -

g. g. :  Yes, I was just going to venture that comment. 

G. G. :  Or to Leopold Stokowski about the prospect for interplanetary travel, which is - I think you’ll agree, and Stanley Kubrick notwithstanding - a bit of a digression. 

g. g. :  This does pose a problem, Mr.  Gould, but let me try to frame the question more affirmatively.  Is there a subject you'd particularly like to discuss? 

G. G. :  I hadn't given it much thought, really - but, just off the top, what about the political situation in Labrador? 

g. g. :  I’m sure that could produce a stimulating dialogue, Mr.  Gould, but I do feel that we have to keep in mind that High Fidelity is edited primarily for a U. S.  constituency. 

G. G. :  Oh, quite.  Well, in that case, perhaps aboriginal rights in western Alaska would make good copy. 

g. g. :  Yes.  Well, I certainly don't want to bypass any headline - grabbing areas of that sort, Mr.  Gould, but since High Fidelity is oriented toward a musically literate readership, we should, I think, at least begin our discussion in the area of the arts. 

G. G. :  Oh, certainly.  Perhaps we could examine the question of aboriginal rights as reflected in ethnomusicological field studies at Point Barrow. 

g. g. :  I must confess I had a rather more conventional line of attack, so to speak, in mind, Mr.  Gould.  As I’m sure you're aware, the virtually obbligatory question in regard to your career is the concert-versus-media controversy, and I do feel we must at least touch upon it. 

G. G. :  I have no objections to fielding a few questions in that area.  As far as I’m concerned, it primarily involves moral rather than musical considerations in any case, so be my guest. 

g. g. :  That's very good of you.  I’ll try to make it brief, and then, perhaps, we can move further afield. 

G. G. . :  Fair enough !

g. g. :  Well now, you've been quoted as saying that your involvement with recording - with media in general, indeed - represents an involvement with the future. 

G. G. :  That's correct.  I've even said so in the pages of this illustrious journal, as a matter of fact. 

g. g. :  Quite so, and you've also said that, conversely, the concert hall, the recital stage, the opera house, or whatever, represent the past - an aspect of your own past in particular, perhaps, as well as, in more general terms, music's past. 

G. G. :  That's true, although I must admit that my only past professional contact with opera was a touch of tracheitis I picked up while playing the old Festspielhaus in Salzburg.  As you know, it was an exceedingly drafty edifice, and I -

g. g. :  Perhaps we could discuss your state of health at a more opportune moment, Mr.  Gould, but it does occur to me - and I hope you’ll forgive me for saying so - that there is something inherently self - serving about pronouncements of this kind.  After all, you elected to abandon all public platforms some - what was it?  - ten years ago? 

G. G. :  Nine years and eleven months as of the date of this issue, actually. 

g. g. :  And you will admit that most people who opt for radical career departures of any sort sustain themselves with the notion that, however reluctantly, the future is on their side? 

G. G. :  It's encouraging to think so, of course, but I must take exception to your use of the term "radical. " It's certainly true that I did take the plunge out of a conviction that given the state of the art, a total immersion in media represented a logical development - and I remain so convinced.  But, quite frankly, however much one likes to formulate past - future equations, the prime sponsors of such convictions, the strongest motivations behind such "departures," to borrow your term, are usually related to no more radical notion than an attempt to resolve the discomfort and inconvenience of the present. 

g. g. :  I’m not sure I've caught the drift of that, Mr.  Gould. 

G. G. :  Well, for instance, let me suggest to you that the strongest motivation for the invention of a lozenge would be a sore throat.  Of course, having patented the lozenge, one would then be free to speculate that the invention represented the future and the sore throat the past, but I doubt that one would be inclined to think in those terms while the irritation was present.  Needless to say, in the case of my tracheitis at Salzburg, medication of that sort was -

g. g. :  Excuse me, Mr.  Gould, I’m sure we will be apprised of your Salzburg misadventures in due course, but I must pursue this point a bit further.  Am I to understand that your withdrawal from the concert stage, your subsequent involvement with media, was motivated by the musical equivalent of a - of a sore throat? 

G. G. :  Do you find that objectionable? 

g. g. :  Well, to be candid, I find it utterly narcissistic.  And to my mind, it's also entirely at odds with your statement that moral objections played a major role in your decision. 

G. G. . :  I don't see the contradiction there - unless, of course, in your view discomfort per se ranks as a positive virtue. 

g. g. :  My views are not the subject of this interview, Mr.  Gould, but I’ll answer your question, regardless.  Discomfort pet se is not the issue; I simply believe that an artist worthy of the name must be prepared to sacrifice personal comfort. 

G. G. :  To what end? 

g. g. : In the interests of preserving the great traditions of the musical - theatrical experience, of maintaining the noble tutorial and curatorial responsibilities of the artist in relation to his audience. 

G. G. :  You don't feel that a sense of discomfort, of unease, could be the sagest of counsellors for both artist and audience? 

g. g. :  No, I simply feel that you, Mr.  Gould, have either never permitted yourself to savour the -

G. G. :  - ego gratification ? 

g. g. :  - the privilege, as I was about to say, of communicating with an audience -

G. G. . :  - from a power - base ? 

g. g. :  - from a proscenium setting in which the naked fact of your humanity is on display, unedited and unadorned. 

G. G. :  Couldn't I at least be allowed to display the tuxedoed fallacy, perhaps? 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, I don't feel we should allow this dialogue to degenerate into idle banter.  It's obvious that you've never savoured the joys of a one - to - one relationship with a listener. 

G. G. :  I always thought that, managerially speaking, a twenty - eight - hundred - to - one relationship was the concert - hall ideal. 

g. g. :  I don't want to split statistics with you.  I've tried to pose the question with all candour, and -

G. G. :  Well then, I’ll try to answer likewise.  It seems to me that if we're going to get waylaid by the numbers game, I’ll have to plump for a zero - to - one relationship as between audience and artist, and that's where the moral objection comes in. 

g. g. :  I’m afraid I don't quite grasp that point, Mr.  Gould.  Do you want to run it through again? 

G. G. :  I simply feel that the artist should be granted, both for his sake and for that of his public - and let me get on record right now the fact that I’m not at all happy with words like "public" and "artist"; I’m not happy with the hierarchical implications of that kind of terminology - that lie should be granted anonymity.  He should be permitted to operate in secret, as it were, unconcerned with - or, better still, unaware of - the presumed demands of the marketplace - which demands, given sufficient indifference on the part of a sufficient number of artists, will simply disappear.  And given their disappearance, the artist will then abandon his false sense of "public" responsibility, and his "public" will relinquish its role of servile dependency. 

g. g. :  And never the twain shall meet, I daresay!

G. G. . :  No, they'll make contact, but on an altogether more meaningful level than that which relates any stage to its apron. 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, I’m well aware that this sort of idealistic role swapping offers a satisfying rhetorical flourish, and it may even be that the "creative audience" concept to which you've devoted a lot of interview space elsewhere offers a kind of McLuhanesque fascination.  But you conveniently forget that the artist, however hermetic his life - style, is still in effect an autocratic figure.  He's still, however benevolently, a social dictator.  And his public, however generously enfranchised by gadgetry, however richly endowed with electronic options, is still on the receiving end of the experience, as of this late date at least, and all of your neomedieval anonymity quest on behalf of the artist as zero, and all of your vertical panculturalism on behalf of his "public," isn't going to change that - or at least it hasn’t done so thus far. 

G. G. :  May I speak now? 

g. g. :  Of course.  I didn't mean to get carried away, but I do feel strongly about the -

G. G. :  - about the artist as superman? 

g. g. :  That's not quite fair, Mr.  Gould. 

G. G. :  - or about the interlocutor as controller of conversations, perhaps? 

g. g. :  There's certainly no need to be rude.  I didn't really expect a conciliatory response from you - I realize that you've staked out certain philosophical claims in regard to these issues - but I did at least hope that just once you'd confess to a personal experience of the one - to - one, artist - to - listener relationship.  I had hoped that you might confess to having personally been witness to the magnetic attraction of a great artist visibly at work before his public. 

G. G. :  Oh, I have had that experience. 

g. g. :  Really? 

G. G. :  Certainly, and I don't mind confessing to it.  Many years ago, I happened to be in Berlin while Herbert von Karajan led the Philharmonic in their first - ever performance of Sibelius' Fifth.  As you know, Karajan tends - in late romantic repertoire particularly - to conduct with eyes closed and to endow his stick wielding with enormously persuasive choreographic contours, and the effect, quite frankly, contributed to one of the truly indelible musical - dramatic experiences of my life. 

g. g. :  You're supporting my contention very effectively indeed, Mr.  Gould.  I know, of course, that that performance, or at any rate one of its subsequent recorded incarnations, played a rather important role in your life. 

G. G. :  You mean because of its utilisation in the epilogue of my radio documentary "The Idea of North" ? 

g. g. :  Exactly, and you've just admitted that this "indelible" experience derived from a face - to - face confrontation, shared with an audience, an not simply from the disembodied predictability purveyed by even the best of phonograph records. 

G. G. :  Well, I suppose you could say that, but I wasn't actually a member of the audience.  As a matter of fact, I took refuge in a glassed - in broadcast booth over the stage, and although I was in a position to see Karajan's face and to relate every ecstatic grimace to the emerging musical experience, the audience - except for the occasional profile shot as he might cue left or right - was not. 

g. g. :  I'm afraid you're splitting subdivided beats there, Mr.  Gould. 

G. G. :  I'm not so sure.  You see, the broadcast booth, in effect, represented a state of isolation, not only for me vis - à - vis my fellow auditors but vis - à - vis the Berlin Philharmonic and its conductor as well. 

g. g. :  And now you're simply clutching at symbolic straws. 

G. G. :  Maybe so but I must point out - entre nous, of course - that when it came time to incorporate Karajan's Sibelius Fifth into "The Idea of North," I revised the dynamics of the recording to suit the mood of the text it accompanied, and that liberty, surely, is the product of - what shall I call it ?  - the enthusiastic irreverence of a zero - to - one relationship, wouldn't you say? 

g. g. :  I should rather think it's the product of unmitigated gall.  I realize, of course, that "The Idea of North" was an experimental radio venture - as I recall, you treated the human voice in that work almost as one might a musical instrument -

G. G. . :  That's right. 

g. g. :  - and permitted two, three, or four individuals to speak at once on occasion. 

G. G. :  True. 

g. g. :  But whereas those experiments with your own raw material, so to speak, seem perfectly legitimate to me, your use - or misuse - of Herr von Karajan's material is another matter altogether.  After all, you've confessed that your original experience of that performance was "indelible."  And yet you blithely confess as well to tampering with what were, presumably, carefully controlled dynamic relationships -

G. G. :  We did some equalising, too. 

g. g. :  - and all in the interest of -

G. G. :  Of my needs of the moment. 

g. g. :  - which, however, were at least unique to the project at hand. 

G. G. : All right, I’ll give you that, but every listener bas a "project at hand", simply in terms of making his experience of music relate to his life - style. 

g. g. :  And you're prepared to have similar unauthorised permutations practised on your own recorded output by listener or listeners unknown? 

G. G. :  I should have failed in my purpose otherwise. 

g. g. :  Then you're obviously reconciled to the fact that no real aesthetic yardstick relates your performances as originally conceived to the manner in which they will be subsequently audited? 

G. G. :  Come to that, I have absolutely no idea as to the "aesthetic" merits of Karajan's Sibelius Fifth when I encountered it on that memorable occasion.  In fact the beauty of the occasion was that, although I was aware of being witness to an intensely moving experience, I had no idea as to whether it was or was not a "good" performance.  My aesthetic judgements were simply placed in cold storage - which is where I should like them to remain, at least when assessing the works of others.  Perhaps, necessarily, and for entirely practical reasons, I apply a different set of criteria on my own behalf, but -

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, are you saying that you do not make aesthetic judgements? 

G. G. :  No, I'm not saying that - though I wish I were able to make that statement, because it would attest to a degree of spiritual perfection that I have not attained.  However, to rephrase the fashionable cliché, I do try as best I can to make only moral judgements and not aesthetic ones - except, as I said, in the case of my own work. 

g. g. :  I suppose, Mr.  Gould, I'm compelled to give you the benefit of the doubt -

G. G. :  That's very good of you. 

g. g. :  - and to assume that you are assessing your own motivations responsibly and accurately. 

G. G. :  One can only try. 

g. g. :  And given that, what you have just confessed adds so many forks to the route of this interview, I simply don't know which trail to pursue. 

G. G. :  Why not pick the most likely signpost, and I’ll just tag along. 

g. g. :  Well, I suppose the obvious question is:  If you don't make aesthetic judgements on behalf of others, what about those who make aesthetic judgements in regard to your own work? 

G. G. :  Oh, some of my best friends are critics, although l'm not sure I'd want my piano to be played by one. 

g. g. :  But some minutes ago, you related the term "spiritual perfection" to a state in which aesthetic judgement is suspended. 

G. G. :  I didn't mean to give the impression that such a suspension would constitute the only criterion for such a state. 

g. g. :  I understand that.  But would it be fair to say that in your view the critical mentality would necessarily lead to an imperilled state of grace ? 

G. G. :  Well now, I think that would call for a very presumptuous judgement on my part.  As I said, some of my best friends are -

g. g. :  - are critics, I know, but you're evading the question. 

G. G. :  Not intentionally.  I just don't feel that one should generalise in matters where such distinguished reputations are at stake, and -

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, I think you owe us both, as well as our readers, an answer to that question. 

G. G. :  I do? 

g. g. :  That's my conviction; perhaps I should repeat the question. 

G.G. :  No, it's not necessary. 

g. g. :  So you do feel, in effect, that the critic represents a morally endangered species? 

G. G. :  Well now, the word "endangered" implies that -

g. g. . : Please, Mr.  Gould, answer the question - you do feel that, don't you? 

G. G. :  Well, as I've said, I -

g. g. . :  You do, don't you ? 

G. G. :  [pause] Yes. 

g. g. :  Of course you do, and now I’m sure you also feel the better for confession. 

G. G. :  Hmm . . .  not at the moment. 

g. g. :  But you will in due course. 

G. G. :  You really think so? 

g. g. :  No question of it.  But now that you've stated your position so frankly, I do have to make mention of the fact that you yourself have by - lined critical dispatches from time to time.  I even recall a piece on Petula Clark which you contributed some years back to these columns and which -

G. G. :  - and which contained more aesthetic judgement pet square page than I would presume to render nowadays.  But it was essentially a moral critique, you know.  It was a piece in which I used Miss Clark, so to speak, in order to comment on a social milieu. 

g. g. :  So you feel that you can successfully distinguish between an aesthetic critique of the individual - which you reject out of hand - and a setting down of moral imperatives for society as a whole. 

G. G. :  I think I can.  Mind you, there are obviously areas in which overlaps are inevitable.  Let's say, for example, that I had been privileged to reside in a town in which all the houses were painted battleship grey. 

g. g. :  Why battleship grey? 

G. G. :  It's my favourite colour. 

g. g. :  It's a rather negative colour, isn't it? 

G. G. :  That's why it's my favourite.  Now then, let's suppose for the sake of argument that without warning one individual elected to paint his house fire - engine red -

g. g. :  - thereby challenging the symmetry of the town planning. 

G. G. :  Yes, it would probably do that too, but you're approaching the question from an aesthetic point of view.  The real consequence of his action would be to foreshadow an outbreak of manic activity in the town and almost inevitably - since other houses would be painted in similarly garish hues - to encourage a climate of competition and, as a corollary, of violence. 

g. g. :  I gather, then, that red in your colour lexicon represents aggressive behaviour. 

G. G. :  I should have thought there'd be general agreement on that.  But as I said, there would be an aesthetic/moral overlap at this point.  The man who painted the first house may have done so purely from an aesthetic preference, and it would, to use an old - fashioned word, be "sinful" if I were to take him to account in respect of his taste.  Such an accounting would conceivably inhibit all subsequent judgements on his part.  But if I were able to persuade him that his particular aesthetic indulgence represented a moral danger to the community as a whole, and providing I could muster a vocabulary appropriate to the task - which would not be, obviously, a vocabulary of aesthetic standards - then that would, I think, be my responsibility. 

g. g. :  You do realize, of course, that you're beginning to talk like a character out of Orwell? 

G. G. :  Oh, the Orwellian world holds no particular terrors for me. 

g. g. :  And you also realize that you're defining and defending a type of censorship that contradicts the whole post - Renaissance tradition of Western thought? 

G. G. :  Certainly.  It's the post-renaissance tradition that has brought the Western world to the brink of destruction.  You know, this odd attachment to freedom of movement, freedom of speech, and so on is a peculiarly Occidental phenomenon.  It's all part of the Occidental notion that one can successfully separate word and deed. 

g. g. :  The sticks - and - stones syndrome, you mean? 

G. G. :  Precisely.  There's some evidence for the fact that - well, as a matter of fact, McLuhan talks about just that in the Gutenberg Galaxy - that preliterate peoples or minimally literate peoples are much less willing to permit that distinction. 

g. g. :  I suppose there's also the biblical injunction that to will evil is to accomplish evil. 

G. G. :  Exactly.  It's only cultures that, by accident or good management, bypassed the Renaissance which see art for the menace it really is. 

g. g. :  May I assume the U. S. S. R.  would qualify? 

G. G. :  Absolutely.  The Soviets are a bit rough - hewn as to method, I’ll admit, but their concerns are absolutely justified. 

g. g. :  What about your own concerns?  Have any of your activities violated these personal strictures and, in your terms, "menaced" society? 

G. G. :  Yes. 

g. g. :  Want to talk about it? 

G. G. :  Not particularly. 

g. g. :  Not even a quick for - instance?  What about the fact that you supplied music for Slaughterhouse Five

G. G. :  What about it? 

g. g. :  Well, at least by Soviet standards, the film of Mr.  Vonnegut's opus would probably qualify as a socially destructive piece of work, wouldn't you say? 

G. G. :  I’m afraid you're right.  I even remember a young lady in Leningrad telling me once that Dostoevsky, "though a very great writer, was unfortunately pessimistic."  And pessimism combined with a hedonistic cop - out, was the hallmark of Slaughterhouse, was it not ? 

G. G. :  Yes, but it was the hedonistic properties rather than the pessimistic ones that gave me a lot of sleepless nights. 

g. g. :  So you didn't approve of the film? 

G. G. :  I admired its craftsmanship extravagantly. 

g. g. :  That's not the same as liking it. 

G. G. :  No, it isn't. 

g. g. :  Can we assume, then, that even an idealist has his price? 

G. G. :  I'd much prefer it said that even an idealist can misread the intentions of a shooting script. 

g. g. :  You would have preferred an uncompromised Billy Pilgrim, I assume? 

G. G. :  I would have preferred some redemptive element added to his persona, yes. 

g. g. :  So you wouldn't vouch for the art - as - technique - pure - and - simple theories of Stravinsky, for instance? 

G. G. :  Certainly not.  That's quite literally the last thing art is. 

g. g. :  Then what about the art - as - violence - surrogate theory? 

G. G. :  I don't believe in surrogates; they're simply the playthings of minds resistant to the perfectibility of man.  Besides, if you're looking for violence surrogates, genetic engineering is a better bet. 

g. g. :  How about the art - as - transcendental - experience theory? 

G. G. :  Of the three you've cited, that's the only one that attracts. 

g. g. :  Do you have a theory of your own, then? 

G. G. :  Yes, but you're not going to like it. 

g. g. :  I’m braced. 

G. G. :  Well, I feel that art should be given the chance to phase itself out.  I think that we must accept the fact that art is not inevitably benign, that it is potentially destructive.  We should analyse the areas where it tends to do least harm, use them as a guideline, and build into art a component that will enable it to preside over its own obsolescence -

g. g. :  Hmm. 

G. G. :  - because, you know, the present position, or positions, of art - some of which you've enumerated - are not without analogy to the ban - the - bomb movement of hallowed memory. 

g. g. :  You surely don't reject protest of that kind? 

G. G. :  No, but since I haven't noticed a single ban - the - child - who - pulls wings - from - dragonflies movement, I can't join it, either.  You see, the Western world is consumed with notions of qualification; the threat of nuclear extinction fulfils those notions, and the loss of a dragonfly's wing does not.  And until the two phenomena are recognised as one, indivisible, until physical and verbal aggression are seen as simply a flip of the competitive coin, until every aesthetic decision can be equated with a moral correlative, I’ll continue to listen to the Berlin Philharmonic from behind a glass partition. 

g. g. :  So you don't expect to see your death wish for art fulfilled in your lifetime. 

G. G. :  No, I couldn't live without the Sibelius Fifth. 

g. g. :  But you are nevertheless talking like a sixteenth - century reformer. 

G. G. :  Actually, I feel very close to that tradition.  In fact, in one of my better lines I remarked that -

g. g. :  That's an aesthetic judgement if ever I heard one !

G. G. :  A thousand pardons - let me try a second take on that.  On a previous occasion, I remarked that I, rather than Mr.  Santayana's hero, am "the last puritan. "

g. g. :  And you don't find any problem in reconciling the individual conscience aspect of the Reformation and the collective censorship of the puritan tradition?  Both motifs, it would seem to me, are curiously intermingled in your thesis and, from what I know of it, in your documentary work as well. 

G. G. :  Well, no, I don't think there's an inevitable inconsistency there, because at its best - which is to say at its purest - that tradition involved perpetual schismatic division.  The best and purest - or at any rate the most ostracised - of individuals ended up in Alpine valleys as symbols of their rejection of the world of the plains.  As a matter of fact, there is to this day a Mennonite sect in Switzerland that equates separation from the world with altitude. 

g. g. :  Would it be fair to suggest that you, on the other hand, equate it with latitude?  After all, you did create "The Idea of North" as a metaphoric comment and not as a factual documentary. 

G. G. : That's quite true.  Of course, most of the documentaries have dealt with isolated situations - Arctic outposts, Newfoundland outposts, Mennonite enclaves, and so on. 

g. g. :  Yes, but they've dealt with a community in isolation. 

G. G. :  That's because my magnum opus is still several drawing boards away. 

g. g. :  So they are autobiographical drafts? 

G. G. :  That, sir, is not for me to say. 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, there's a sort of grim, I might even say grey, consistency to what you've said, but it does seem to me that we have come a rather long way from the concert - versus - record theme with which we began. 

G. G. :  On the contrary, I think we've performed a set of variations on that theme and that, indeed, we've virtually come full circle. 

g. g. :  In any event, I have only a few more questions to put to you, of which, I guess, the most pertinent would now be:  Apart from being a frustrated member of the board of censors, is any other career of interest to you? 

G. G. :  I've often thought that I'd like to try my hand at being a prisoner. 

g. g. :  You regard that as a career ? 

G. G. : Oh, certainly - on the understanding, of course, that I would be entirely innocent of all charges brought against me. 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, has anyone suggested that you could be suffering from a Myshkin complex ?

G. G. : No, and I can't accept the compliment.  It's simply that, as I indicated, I've never understood the preoccupation with freedom as it's reckoned in the Western world.  So far as I can see, freedom of movement usually has to do only with mobility, and freedom of speech most frequently with socially sanctioned verbal aggression, and to be incarcerated would be the perfect test of one's inner mobility and of the strength which would enable one to opt creatively out of the human situation. 

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, weary as I am, that feels like a contradiction in terms. 

G. . G. :  I don't really think it is.  I also think that there's a younger generation than ours - you are about my age, are you not? 

g. g. :  I should assume so. 

G. G. :  - a younger generation that doesn't have to struggle with that concept, to whom the competitive fact is not an inevitable component of life, and who do program their lives without making allowances for it. 

g. g. :  Are you trying to sell me on the neotribalism kick? 

G. G. :  Not really, no.  I suspect that competitive tribes got us into this mess in the first place, but, as I said, I don't deserve the Myshkin - complex title. 

g. g. :  Well, your modesty is legendary, of course, Mr.  Gould, but what brings you to that conclusion? 

G. G. . :  The fact that I would inevitably impose demands upon my keepers - demands that a genuinely free spirit could afford to overlook. 

g. g. :  Such as ? 

G. G. :  The cell would have to be prepared in a battleship - grey decor. 

g. g. :  I shouldn't think that would pose a problem. 

G. G. :  Well, I've heard that the new look in penal reform involves primary colours. 

g. g. :  Oh, I see. 

G. G. :  And of course there would have to be some sort of understanding about the air - conditioning control.  Overhead vents would be out - as I may have mentioned, I’m subject to tracheitis - and, assuming that a forced - air system was employed, the humidity regulator would have to be -

g. g. :  Mr.  Gould, excuse the interruption, but it just occurs to me that since you have attempted to point out on several occasions that you did suffer a traumatic experience in the Salzburg Festspielhaus -

G. G. :  Oh, I didn't meant to leave the impression of a traumatic experience.  On the contrary, my tracheitis was of such severity that I was able to cancel a month of concerts, withdraw into the Alps, and lead the most idyllic and isolated existence. 

g. g. :  I see.  Well now, may I make a suggestion ? 

G. G. :  Of course. 

g. g. :  As you know, the old Festspielhaus was originally a riding academy. 

G. G. :  Oh, quite; I'd forgotten. 

g. g. :  And of course, the rear of the building is set against a mountainside. 

G. G. . :  Yes, that's quite true. 

g. g. :  And since you're obviously a man addicted to symbols - I’m sure this prisoner fantasy of yours is precisely that - it would seem to me that the Festspielhaus - the Felsenreitschule - with its Kafka - like setting at the base of a cliff, with the memory of equestrian mobility haunting its past, and located, moreover, in the birthplace of a composer whose works you have frequently criticised, thereby compromising your own judgmental criteria -

G. G. :  Ah, but I've criticised them primarily as evidence of a hedonistic life. 

g. g. :  Be that as it may.  The Festspielhaus, Mr.  Gould, is a place to which a man like yourself, a man in search of martyrdom, should return. 

G. G. :  Martyrdom ?  What ever gave you that impression?  I couldn't possibly go back !

g. g. :  Please, Mr.  Gould, try to understand.  There could be no more meaningful manner in which to scourge the flesh, in which to proclaim the ascendance of the spirit, and certainly no more meaningful metaphoric mise en scène against which to offset your own hermetic life-style, through which to define your quest for martyrdom autobiographically, as I’m sure you will try to do, eventually. 

G. G. :  But you must believe me - I have no such quest in mind !

g. g. :  Yes, I think you must go back, Mr.  Gould.  You must once again tread the boards of the Festspielhaus; you must willingly, even gleefully, subject yourself to the gales which rage upon that stage.  For then and only then will you achieve the martyr's end you so obviously desire. 

G. G. . :  Please don't misunderstand; I’m touched by your concern It's just that, in the immortal words of Mr.  Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, "I'm not ready yet."

g. g. :  In that case, Mr.  Gould, in the immortal words of Mr.  Vonnegut himself, "So it goes."

©Hachette Filipacchi Magazines, Inc.

Advice to a Graduation


Delivered at the Royal Conservatory of Music, University of Toronto,
November 1964.

I know that in accepting the role of advice giver to a graduation, I am acceding to a venerable tradition.  However, it's a role that rather frightens me, partly because it's new to me, and partly because I'm firmly persuaded that much more harm than good accrues to gratuitous advice.  I know that on these occasions it is customary for the advice giver to tell you something of the world that you will face - based, of course, upon his experience - one that necessarily could not duplicate that which may be your own.  I know also that it is customary to recommend to you the solutions that have proved themselves valid within the speaker's experience, sometimes to dish them up anecdotally in the "When I was your age" - or, even more mischievously, in the "If I were your age" - tradition.  But I have had to reject this approach, because I am compelled to realise that the separateness of our experience limits the usefulness of any practical advice that I could offer you.  Indeed, if I could find one phrase that would sum up my wishes for you on this occasion, I think it would be devoted to convincing you of the futility of living too much by the advice of others. 

What can I say to you that will not contravene this conviction?  There is, perhaps, one thing which does not contradict my feeling about the futility of advice in such a circumstance as this, because it is not based upon calling to your observation something demonstrable - that is to say, something that need be demonstrated and hence will most likely be rejected - but is simply a suggestion about the perspective in which you view those facts that you possess already and those which you shall subsequently choose to acquire. 

It is this:  that you should never cease to be aware that all aspects of the learning you have acquired, and will acquire, are possible because of their relationship with negation - with that which is not, or which appears not to be.  The most impressive thing about man, perhaps the one thing that excuses him of all his idiocy and brutality, is the fact that he has invented the concept of that which does not exist.  "Invented" is perhaps not quite the right word - perhaps "acquired" or "assumed" would be more acceptable - but "invented," to return to it, somehow expresses more forcefully, if not quite accurately, the achievement that is involved in providing for an explanation for mankind, an antithesis involved with that which mankind is not.  The ability to portray ourselves in terms of those things which are antithetical to our own experience is what allows us not just a mathematical measure of the world in which we live (though without the negative we would not go far in mathematics) but also a philosophical measure of ourselves; it allows us a frame within which to define those things which we regard as positive acts.  That frame can represent many things.  It can represent restraint.  It can represent a shelter from all of those antithetical directions pursued by the world outside ourselves - directions which may have consistency and validity elsewhere but from which our experience seeks protection.  That frame can represent a most arbitrary tariff against those purely artificial but totally necessary systems which we construct in order to govern ourselves - our social selves, out moral selves, our artistic selves, if you will.  The implication of the negative in our lives reduces by comparison every other concept that man has toyed with in the history of thought.  It is the concept which seeks to make us better - to provide us with structures within which out thought can function - while at the same time it concedes our frailty, the need that we have for this barricade behind which the uncertainty, the fragility, the tentativeness of out systems can look for logic. 

You are about to enter - as they say on these fearsome occasions - the world of music.  And music, as you know, is a most unscientific science, a most unsubstantial substance.  No one has ever really fully explained to us many of the primevally obvious things about music.  No one has really explained to us why we call high "high" and low "low. " Anyone can manage to explain to us what we call high and what we call low; but to articulate the reasons why this most unscientific, unsubstantial thing that we call music moves us as it does, and affects us as deeply as it can, is something that no one has ever achieved.  And the more one thinks about the perfectly astonishing phenomenon that music is, the more one realises how much of its operation is the product of the purely artificial construction of systematic thought.  Don't misunderstand me:  when I say "artificial" I don't mean something that is bad.  I mean simply something that is not necessarily natural, and "necessarily" takes care of the provision that in infinity it might turn out to have been natural after all.  But so far as we can know, the artificiality of system is the only thing that provides for music a measure of our reaction to it. 

Is it possible, then, that this reaction is also simulated?  Perhaps it, too, is artificial.  Perhaps this is what the whole complicated lexicon of music education is meant to do - just to cultivate reaction to a certain set of symbolic events in sound.  And not real events producing real reactions, but simulated events and simulated reactions.  Perhaps, like Pavlov's dogs, we get chills when we recognize a suspended thirteenth, we grow cozy with the resolving dominant seventh, precisely because we know that's what is expected of us, precisely because we've been educated to these reactions.  Perhaps it's because we've grown impressed with our own ability to react.  Perhaps there's nothing more to it than that we've found favour with ourselves - that the whole exercise of music is a demonstration of reflex operation. 

The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds - to our reflex senses, perhaps - make of music an analysable commodity.  The trouble begins when we start to be so impressed by the strategies of our systematised thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.  And when that happens, when we forget these things, all sorts of mechanical failures begin to disrupt the function of human personality.  When people who practice an art like music become captives of those positive assumptions of system, when they forget to credit that happening against negation which system is, and when they become disrespectful of the immensity of negation compared to system - then they put themselves out of reach of that replenishment of invention upon which creative ideas depend, because invention is, in fact, a cautious dipping into the negation that lies outside system from a position firmly ensconced in system. 

Most of you at some time or other will engage in teaching some aspect of music, I should imagine, and it is in that role that you are most liable, I think, to what I might call the dangers of positive thinking. 

I am, perhaps, in no position to talk about teaching.  It is something that I have never done and do not imagine that I shall ever have the courage to do.  It strikes me as involving a most awesome responsibility which I should prefer to avoid.  Nevertheless, most of you will probably face that responsibility at some time; and from the sidelines, then, it would seem to me that your success as teachers would very much depend upon the degree to which the singularity, the uniqueness, of the confrontation between yourselves and each one of your students is permitted to determine your approach to them.  The moment that boredom, or fatigue, the ennui of the passing years, overcomes the specific ingenuity with which you apply yourself to every problem, then you will be menaced by that over-reliance upon the susceptible positive attributes of system. 

You may remember the introduction that George Bernard Shaw supplied to his collected writings as music critic, and in which he describes an early ambition to develop the native resonance of his baritone and grace the stages of the world's opera houses.  He was encouraged in this, apparently, by a lively charlatan, one of those walking fossils of music theory, who already had ensnared Shaw's mother as student and who proclaimed himself in possession of something called "the Method. " It seems that after several months' exposure to the Method, Bernard Shaw took to his typewriter and was never able to carry a tune again. 

I do not, for one moment, suggest that you minimise the importance of dogmatic theory.  I do not suggest, either, that you extend your investigative powers to such purpose that you compromise your own comforting faith in the systems by which you have been taught and to which you remain responsive.  But I do suggest that you take care to recall often that the systems by which we organise our thinking, and in which we attempt to pass on that thinking to the generations that follow, represent what you might think of as a foreground of activity - of positive, convinced, self-reliant action - and that this foreground can have validity only insofar as it attempts to impose credibility on that vast background acreage of human possibility that has not yet been organized. 

Those of you who will become performers and composes will not perhaps be quite so vulnerable, if only because the market in which you will have to operate is insatiably demanding of new ideas, or, at any rate, of new variations upon old ideas.  Furthermore, as performer or composer you will in all likelihood exist - or, at any rate, should try to exist - more for yourself and of yourself than is possible for your colleagues in musical pedagogy.  You will not be as constantly exposed to the sort of questions which tempt ready answers from you.  You will not have quite so great an opportunity to allow your concepts of music to become inflexible.  But this solitude that you can acquire and should cultivate, this opportunity for contemplation of which you should take advantage, will be useful to you only insofar as you can substitute for those questions posed by the student for the teacher, questions posed by yourself for yourself.  You must try to discover how high your tolerance is for the questions you ask of yourself.  You must try to recognize that point beyond which the creative exploration - questions that extend your vision of your world - extends beyond the point of tolerance and paralyses the imagination by confronting it with too much possibility, too much speculative opportunity.  To keep the practical issues of systematised thought and the speculative opportunities of the creative instinct in balance will be the most difficult and most important undertaking of your lives in music. 

Somehow, I cannot help thinking of something that happened to me when I was thirteen or fourteen.  I haven't forgotten that I prohibited myself anecdotes for tonight.  But this one does seem to me to bear on what we've been discussing, and since I have always felt it to have been a determining moment in my own reaction to music, and since anyway I am growing old and nostalgic, you will have to hear me out.  I happened to be practising at the piano one day - I clearly recall, not that it matters, that it was a fugue by Mozart, K.  394, for those of you who play it too - and suddenly a vacuum cleaner started up just beside the instrument.  Well, the result was that in the louder passages, this luminously diatonic music in which Mozart deliberately imitates the technique of Sebastian Bach became surrounded with a halo of vibrato, rather the effect that you might get if you sang in the bathtub with both cars full of water and shook your head from side to side all at once.  And in the softer passages I couldn't hear any sound that I was making at all.  I could feel, of course - I could sense the tactile relation with the keyboard, which is replete with its own kind of acoustical associations, and I could imagine what I was doing, but I couldn't actually hear it.  But the strange thing was that all of it suddenly sounded better than it had without the vacuum cleaner, and those parts which I couldn't actually hear sounded best of all.  Well, for years thereafter, and still today, if I am in a great hurry to acquire an imprint of some new score on my mind, I simulate the effect of the vacuum cleaner by placing some totally contrary noises as close to the instrument as I can.  It doesn't matter what noise, really - TV Westerns, Beatles records; anything loud will suffice - because what I managed to learn through the accidental coming together of Mozart and the vacuum cleaner was that the inner ear of the imagination is very much more powerful a stimulant than is any amount of outward observation. 

You don't have to duplicate the eccentricity of my experiment to prove this true.  You will find it to be true, I think, so long as you remain deeply involved with the processes of your own imagination - not as alternative to what seems to be the reality of outward observation, not even as supplement to positive action and acquisition, because that's not the way in which the imagination can serve you best.  What it can do is to serve as a sort of no man's land between that foreground of system and dogma, of positive action, for which you have been trained, and that vast background of immense possibility, of negation, which you must constantly examine, and to which you must never forget to pay homage as the source from which all creative ideas come. 

 


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